Improving American STEM Education Might Change Governmental Immigration Policies

05 Feb 2020

Despite the current strategy regarding immigrants in general and foreign students in particular set by Trump’s administration, the necessity to improve the situation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields will eventually lead to the changes in policies and approaches since the economy of the 21st century requires more proficient specialists. Reviewing the recent events and subsequent outcomes allows predicting the new plan Trump might implement to give the impetus to the development of American STEM education.

Current State of Things

The Trump’s administration reviewed the data gathered during the last decade and its five-year strategic plan for STEM education reveals that currently, only approximately 20% of American prospective college students possess skills and knowledge sufficient for a STEM major obligatory courses. As the result, American education is not as good on K-12 level as in other developed countries, being rated as above average by less than 30% of Americans, even despite the fact that there are many world’s top STEM programs on the university level.

As a result, employers report that not many applicants are qualified enough to fill in the open technology positions and this tendency became prevalent during the last four years. According to iCIMS 2019 Benchmark Report, along with the increasing demand for tech specialists, only six hires per ten job openings happened during that period, which means that hiring a tech talent becomes even more harder due to the lack of actually qualified people.

At the same time, the federal government did not do everything possible to improve the state of STEM education. While there are certain priorities, such as the U.S. Department of Education’s investing $540 million in this field of study during the 2019 year, the federal government still implements policies that put obstacles for specific categories of students who choose STEM field as their vocation. It happens even despite the fact that the government realizes that STEM education needs to be more accessible to adhere to the modern world’s requirements.

Foreign students still suffer from limitations set by Trump’s administration. For example, many unexpected delays and even denials happened to many international prospective students after February 2019 when processing time for student and scholar visas was extended from 60 days to 180. These changes seriously affect the chances of students who admitted in March to enroll at their chosen colleges and universities in the fall. As a result, a smaller number of foreign students had the chance to take part in STEM programs offered by American educational institutions, some of these programs were even canceled.

There are also other practices that are rather inappropriate from the moral point of view. The programs that allow students to study full-time anywhere in the USA and work for American companies from the very first day of the study do exist and they become treated as the substitute for work visas. Though the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) may use them as a way to deceive prospective STEM students and even arrest and deport them as happened during the infamous operation with the fake university. Of course, foreign students who were interested both in STEM education and work authorization in the USA were targeted.

Prospects for Foreign Students

However, even despite the current state of dropping rates of foreign students’ involvement in American STEM education, the matters will change. From the historical perspective, many STEM programs could not have even operated without international students, since while they constitute only approximately 20% of graduate students in general, more than half of students enrolled in such STEM fields as computer science and engineering are foreign ones. Sometimes this number of international students enrolled in STEM may get over 90% while Americans become more reluctant to choose STEM fields as their vocation.

Trump’s administration will eventually understand that these numbers are not a threat to American students’ educational opportunities but rather a huge opportunity. It is not about competing for a limited number of possibilities to study, quite on the contrary, facts found by researcher Kevin Shih demonstrate that the increase of foreign students’ enrollment results in the enrollment of additional American students.

International students allow more Americans to study since tuition fees for these two categories of students are different. Obviously, foreigners have to pay more due to the presence of additional fees and overall higher out-of-state rates. As a result, tuition fees to be paid by the international students may be more than two times higher than the one of their American counterparts. A significant part of funds received from international students is used as the financial aid to help American students from lower-income families obtain a decent education. Thus, since Trump’s administration wants more Americans to be enrolled in STEM programs, the projected restrictions for international students’ opportunities will not survive.


Cultivating progress and talent could not be efficient without cooperating with talented people from abroad since a synergy of efforts, knowledge, and ideas from people all over the globe allowed to build the modern highly developed society and only maintaining this synergy will allow the USA to lead the 21st-century economy. The federal government will soon understand that international students are the inseparable part of American STEM education and if the former face limitations, the latter will fail.