Encourage immigration from world's best and brightest students

Our immigration debate has been backward. To our great loss, in science, medicine, engineering and academia generally, we have concentrated too much on the immigrants we don’t want and too little on those we want.

We should be concentrating more on the best and the brightest of the foreigners who want to come to the United States, and, if they stay, who are likely to make real contributions to our society and our slipping global competitiveness.

According to The New York Times, India’s “handful of highly selective schools are being overwhelmed” by those such as Moulshri Mohan, 18, a brilliant graduate of one of New Delhi’s top private schools. She was rejected by Delhi University for a score of 93.5 percent on her entrance examinations, below the cutoff score of nearly 100 percent. The exam score is the university’s sole entrance criterion.

If the limited number of top Indian schools don’t have room for her, we’ll take her. And if she’s like so many other immigrant students, someday we’ll be glad we did.

Mohan did not go unappreciated on the U.S. academic market. She was accepted at Dartmouth and Smith, which offered her scholarships, as well as Cornell, Bryn Mawr, Wesleyan, Barnard and the University of Virginia, the Times said.

The solution to the problem with having too few highly selective colleges, as the U.S. has found, is to create more highly selective colleges, either by building them from scratch as Maryland did with St. Mary’s College or simply by raising entrance standards as so many top-name state schools have
done.

Americans some years removed from the college-selection process will be surprised to learn that your basic Moo U., whose entrance criteria were once limited to an applicant having most of the vital signs, now demands 3.0-plus grade-point averages and top SAT scores.

The U.S. youth demographics are such that we may not always be able to fill these slots on our own, but plenty of bright young foreigners are willing to and are increasingly able to pay at least a part of their own way.

The number of foreign students applying to undergraduate schools is up 20 percent. Once they graduate, it has been our self-defeating policy to send them home, unless they want to stay for graduate work — say, a medical degree — and then we send them home.

People forget that for a couple hundred years we didn’t so much grow Americans as make them out of immigrants.

If these foreign students do well, especially — but not exclusively — in fields we need, let’s give them green cards and tell them they’re welcome to stay and to be sure to be true to their school.

Dale McFeatters is an editorial writer and columnist for the Scripps Howard News Service.

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