India’s tsunami of U.S. student visa applicants

May 28, 2015 12:14 PM (UTC+8)

 

There’s definitely no shortage of Indians applying for visas to study engineering or computer science in the U.S.

The U.S. saw a 60% increase in the number of student visa applications from India this year, reported the Economic Times. Of the 90,000 who applied, only about 4,000 made the cut. The students will join the nearly 103,000 Indian students currently studying in the U.S., the second largest group of foreign students after China.

According to the U.S. embassy, among the applicants the most popular field of study is engineering, followed by computer science. “About 78% of Indian students opt to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields,” the U.S. Embassy said.

The conventional wisdom in the U.S. is that not enough American students are going into the STEM careers. However, this appears to be a myth. The U.S. Census Bureau last year said nearly three-quarters of the people who have a bachelor’s degree in the STEM fields — aren’t working in those professions. It said that only about half of engineering, computer, math and statistics majors in the U.S. had jobs in their chosen field. Science grads fared even worse: Just 26% of physical science majors and 15% of those with a diploma in biology, environmental studies or agriculture were in a STEM-related occupation.

But maybe this misses the larger competitive point. Most of these Indians plan to go home when they finish their degrees. If for no other reason, that’s where the jobs are. Currently, the biggest tech industries in the U.S. are social media and e-commerce — not exactly the stuff that builds great nations.

Meanwhile, China is creating plenty of work for engineers by building a New Silk Road and expanding its technology sector. India’s technology sector is blossoming as well. Maybe the U.S. should be worried about losing all these future engineers and computer scientists to the countries that may soon be inventing the next wave of technology innovation.

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