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Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Where are our scientists and engineers?

In a column, published on June 26 in the Washington Post , George F. Will laments the fact that there are too few H1B visas to allow foreign born scientists and engineers to remain in the USA after they have received PhD degrees from American Universities.

He misses the point. As Mr. Will writes:

"Two-thirds of doctoral candidates in science and engineering in U.S. universities are foreign-born."

The real question is why Americans are unwilling to study these subjects.

Admittedly these disciplines are hard but surely there are many who, with the appropriate encouragement, would be willing to tackle the job. The 1958 National Defense Education Act, passed shortly after the Soviet Union launched the world's first artificial satellite (Sputnik), helped a generation of American scientists and engineers with their education costs.

Now that the costs of higher education have escalated to such a level that few students or families can afford it without incurring an almost crippling load of debt, there is an urgent need for change.

Rather than treating all college students as equally worthy of [insufficient] financial assistance, perhaps it is time to discriminate in favor of those Americans who study the hard subjects. We need scientists and engineers - more than lawyers, bureaucrats, hedge fund managers and speculators, or designers of really ugly cars, boats, and buildings - to ensure the continued creation of wealth in our country.

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