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Study: US Job Program for Foreign Students Expands

FILE - Brooklyn College students walk between classes on campus in New York, Feb. 1, 2017.
FILE - Brooklyn College students walk between classes on campus in New York, Feb. 1, 2017.

A new report says a United States government program for foreign students has been expanding in recent years.

The government's Optional Practical Training, or OPT, program was set up to help foreign students graduating from American colleges and universities. It gives them a chance to stay in the country for temporary employment after they complete their studies.

The report, from the Washington-based Pew Research Center, notes that many foreign students take classes in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM subjects. The center noted that, under OPT, the number of foreign students graduating and working in STEM fields rose 400 percent between 2008 and 2016.

The federal program enables F-1 visa holders who complete school to remain in the United States and work for up to one year. Two years ago, the program began permitting graduates in STEM fields to work an additional 24 months.

In 2016, about 172,000 foreign nationals got a job through OPT. The program had 45,000 students in 2008, and 73,000 in 2014. The numbers are based on information provided to Pew by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, through a Freedom of Information Act request.

More than half of foreign graduates in the program specialized in STEM fields.

From 2004 to 2016, about 74 percent of OPT approvals were citizens of Asian countries, the Pew study found. Students from India, China and South Korea made up 57 percent of the total. Graduates from Europe were the second-largest group, with an 8 percent total. Another 8 percent were from Latin America and the Caribbean, while 5 percent were from Africa.

The Optional Practical Training program is not as well-known as the U.S. government's H-1B visa program, but the number of people taking part in OPT is much larger.

Under the H-1B program, foreign workers are permitted to stay in the U.S. for up to six years. After this time, H-1B visa holders must either return to their home country or seek permission to stay permanently. Working a temporary job through OPT is seen as a first step for many people hoping to receive an H-1B visa at a later date.

The H-1B program is designed to employ foreign workers in jobs requiring "specialized knowledge," according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Many of these jobs are filled by people with STEM backgrounds.

Pew Research Center reports that in 2016, about 257,000 people took part in the OPT program. By comparison, the H-1B program is limited to 85,000 people per year.

Pew noted that one reason for the rise in OPT numbers is because the number of new students on F-1 visas at U.S. colleges went up 104 percent from 2008 to 2016.

The United States has the largest foreign student population in the world. Neil Ruiz, a co-author of the report, says the OPT program has been an important tool in getting foreign students to attend U.S. schools and retain them after they graduate.

Presidential policies

But foreign student enrollment at U.S. colleges is reported to have dropped since the presidential election in 2016.

Last November, the Institute of International Education released results of a study involving nearly 500 colleges and universities. They were asked to provide enrollment numbers for the 2017-2018 school year. On average, the results found a 7 percent drop in the number of newly-enrolled foreign students at U.S. schools.

The institute says the drop is likely a result of government policies that seek to limit immigration and restrict travel from some mostly Muslim countries. In addition, the group says American colleges also are facing increasing competition from countries like Canada, Australia and Britain.

The U.S. government has also considered making changes to the H-1B and F-1 visa programs. Officials have said the changes would aim to prevent foreign nationals from taking jobs away from American workers.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has announced plans to carry out "comprehensive reform" of practical training programs in an effort "to reduce fraud and abuse."

The Association of International Educators estimated the economic effects of more than one million international students in the U.S. Its study found that the students added about $37 billion to the U.S. economy and supported 450,000 jobs during the 2016-2017 school year.

The association's director, Esther Brimmer, said that it is important to realize there is "increasing global competition" for international student talent. She urged U.S. officials to strengthen policies that center on "our nation's founding ideals of inclusivity and opportunity."

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Report: US could have 2.8M international students in 10 years

FILE - Students walk on the campus of Boston College, April 29, 2024, in Boston.
FILE - Students walk on the campus of Boston College, April 29, 2024, in Boston.

The United States, which currently has 1,057,188 students from 210 countries, could have 2.8 million students by 2034, according to a report in India’s Free Press Journal.

The report says India is likely to make a significant contribution to the increase, along with China, Vietnam, Nigeria and Bangladesh. (June 2024)

Small group of colleges educates 20% of undergrads 

FILE - A cyclist crosses an intersection on the campus of Arizona State University on Sept. 1, 2020, in Tempe, Ariz.
FILE - A cyclist crosses an intersection on the campus of Arizona State University on Sept. 1, 2020, in Tempe, Ariz.

A group of just 102 public and private, four-year U.S. colleges and universities has an enrollment of 3.3 million students – about 1 in 5 of the nation’s undergraduates.

The Chronicle of Higher Education took a look at the institutions, their locations and their students. (June 2024)

After $1B gift, most Johns Hopkins medical students won't pay tuition

A sign stands in front of part of the Johns Hopkins Hospital complex, July 8, 2014, in Baltimore. Most medical students at Johns Hopkins University will no longer pay tuition thanks to a $1 billion gift from Bloomberg Philanthropies.
A sign stands in front of part of the Johns Hopkins Hospital complex, July 8, 2014, in Baltimore. Most medical students at Johns Hopkins University will no longer pay tuition thanks to a $1 billion gift from Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Most medical students at Johns Hopkins University will no longer pay tuition thanks to a $1 billion gift from Bloomberg Philanthropies announced Monday.

Starting in the fall, the donation will cover full tuition for medical students from families earning less than $300,000. Living expenses and fees will be covered for students from families who earn up to $175,000.

Bloomberg Philanthropies said that currently almost two-thirds of all students seeking a doctor of medicine degree from Johns Hopkins qualify for financial aid, and 45% of the current class will also receive living expenses. The school estimates that graduates' average total loans will decrease from $104,000 currently to $60,279 by 2029.

The gift will also increase financial aid for students at the university's schools of nursing, public health, and other graduate schools.

"By reducing the financial barriers to these essential fields, we can free more students to pursue careers they're passionate about – and enable them to serve more of the families and communities who need them the most," Michael Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies and Bloomberg LP, said in a statement on Monday. Bloomberg received a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Johns Hopkins University in 1964.

FILE - Former mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg speaks during the Earthshot Prize Innovation Summit in New York, Sept. 19, 2023.
FILE - Former mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg speaks during the Earthshot Prize Innovation Summit in New York, Sept. 19, 2023.

The gift will go to John Hopkins' endowment and every penny will go directly to students, said Ron Daniels, president of Johns Hopkins University.

"Mike has really been moved by the challenges that the professions confronted during the course of the pandemic and the heroic efforts they've made to protecting and providing care to American citizens during the pandemic," Daniels said in an interview. "I think he simply wanted to recognize the importance of these fields and provide this support to ensure that the best and brightest could attend medical school and the school of nursing and public health."

Bloomberg Philanthropies previously gifted $1.8 billion to Johns Hopkins in 2018 to ensure that undergraduate students are accepted regardless of their family's income.

Johns Hopkins will be the latest medical school to offer free tuition to most or all of their medical students.

In February Ruth Gottesman, a former professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and the widow of a Wall Street investor, announced that she was donating $1 billion to the school. The gift meant that four-year students immediately received free tuition and all other students will be offered free tuition in the fall.

In 2018, Kenneth and Elaine Langone gave $100 million to the NYU Grossman School of Medicine to make tuition free for all current and future medical students through an endowment fund. The couple gave a second gift of $200 million in 2023 to the NYU Grossman Long Island School of Medicine to guarantee free tuition for all medical students. Kenneth Langone is a co-founder of Home Depot.

Other medical schools, like UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine, offer merit-based scholarships thanks to some $146 million in donations from the recording industry mogul, David Geffen. The Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine has also offered tuition-free education for medical students since 2008.

Candice Chen, associate professor, Milken Institute School of Public Health at The George Washington University, has researched the social missions of medical schools and had a strong reaction to the recent major gifts to John Hopkins, NYU and Albert Einstein.

"Collectively the medical schools right now, I hate to say this, but they're failing in terms of producing primary care, mental health specialists as well as the doctors who will work in and serve in rural and underserved communities," Chen said. She would have loved to see this gift go to Meharry Medical College in Tennessee, for example, which is a historically Black school that has produced many primary care doctors who work in communities that have shortages.

Bloomberg granted Meharry Medical College $34 million in 2020 as part of a $100 million gift he made to four Black medical schools to help reduce the debt of their medical students for four years.

There have been only a handful of previous $1 billion donations to universities in the U.S., most coming in the past several years.

In 2022, the venture capitalist John Doerr and his wife, Ann, gave $1.1 billion to Stanford University for a new school focusing on climate change.

The small liberal arts school McPherson College has received two matching pledges since 2022 from an anonymous donor totaling $1 billion. The school, which has around 800 enrolled students, has a program for automotive restoration and is located 57 miles north of Wichita, Kansas.

Bloomberg, the former New York mayor, gave $3 billion to charities in 2023, making him one of the largest donors, according to research by the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Fewer job opportunities for computer science majors 

FILE - Students walk out of the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington in Seattle.
FILE - Students walk out of the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Recent computer science majors are finding entry-level jobs harder to come by, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.

The newspaper found that tech companies are scaling back on hiring and turning more attention to artificial intelligence. (May 2024)

Bangladeshi protesters demand end to civil service job quotas

FILE - Students and job seekers shouts slogans as they protest, calling for a ban on quotas for government jobs, at Shahbagh Square in Dhaka, Bangladesh, July 3, 2024.
FILE - Students and job seekers shouts slogans as they protest, calling for a ban on quotas for government jobs, at Shahbagh Square in Dhaka, Bangladesh, July 3, 2024.

Thousands of Bangladeshi university students threw roadblocks across key highways Sunday, demanding the end of "discriminatory" quotas for coveted government jobs, including reserving posts for children of liberation heroes.

Students in almost all major universities took part, demanding a merit-based system for well-paid and massively over-subscribed civil service jobs.

"It's a do-or-die situation for us," protest coordinator Nahidul Islam told AFP, during marches at Dhaka University.

"Quotas are a discriminatory system," the 26-year-old added. "The system has to be reformed."

The current system reserves more than half of posts, totaling hundreds of thousands of government jobs.

That includes 30% reserved for children of those who fought to win Bangladeshi independence in 1971, 10% for women, and 10% percent set aside for specific districts.

Students said only those quotas supporting ethnic minorities and disabled people — 6% of jobs — should remain.

Critics say the system benefits children of pro-government groups, who back Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Her father, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, was Bangladesh's founding leader.

Hasina, 76, won her fourth consecutive general election in January, in a vote without genuine opposition parties, with a widespread boycott and a major crackdown against her political opponents.

Critics accuse Bangladeshi courts of rubber-stamping decisions made by her government.

The system was initially abolished after weeks of student protests in 2018.

But in June, Dhaka's High Court rolled that back, saying the cancellation had been invalid.

'Wasting their time'

Hasina has condemned the protests, saying the matter had been settled by the court.

"Students are wasting their time," Hasina told female activists from her party Sunday, Bangladeshi newspapers reported.

"After the court's verdict, there is no justification for the anti-quota movement."

Protests began earlier in July and have grown.

"We will bury the quota system," students chanted Sunday in Bangladesh’s second city Chittagong, where hundreds of protesters marched.

In Dhaka, hundreds of students disrupted traffic for hours, police said.

At the elite Jahangirnagar University, at least 500 students blocked the highway connecting the capital with southeastern Bangladesh "for two hours," local police chief A.F.M. Shahed told AFP.

Bin Yamin Molla, a protest leader, said at least 30,000 students participated in the protests, although the number could not be verified.

Bangladesh was one of the world's poorest countries when it gained independence in 1971, but it has grown an average of more than 6% each year since 2009.

Hasina has presided over that breakneck economic growth, with per capita income in the country of 170 million people overtaking India in 2021.

But much of that growth has been on the back of the mostly female factory workforce powering its garment export industry, and economists say there is an acute crisis of jobs for millions of university students.

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