Dr. Norm Matloff With More On The California University That Can Only Admit Non-California (Including Overseas) Students

Dr. Norm Matloff writes to his email list:

The other day I reported here on a bizarre situation at the California State University East Bay, in which master`s degree programs were told they could admit only non-California students. This stems from the CSU/UC systems` recent attempts to remedy budget woes by admitting more non-California students, who pay higher fees. But at CSUEB the administration has now taken it even further, ordering that ONLY non-California students be admitted. My posting is archived here.

This controversy was the topic this morning on Forum, a highbrow radio talk show on a San Francisco NPR station, KQED. Forum`s host, Michael Krazny, is himself a professor of English at CSU`s San Francisco campus. You`ll be able to listen to the show at its archive slot, here. (Not up yet as I write this.)

Guests on the show were Maria Nieto, a CSUEB biology professor who was quoted in the article I reviewed the other day; Mike Uhlenkamp, spokesperson for the California State University chancellor`s office; and Mo Qayoumi, president of San Jose State University.

Uhlenkamp and Qayoumi, in the words of a caller, “danced around the issue,” quite predictable of course–this is what administrators are good at, and what they are hired to do. They downplayed the admissions policy on grounds of small size. Uhlenkamp even had the chutzpah to say that the small size meant the admissions policy was not discriminatory (against Californians). The caller, a lawyer, was outraged by the statement.

Though the term “non-Californians” includes both out-of-state Americans and international students, the statements by the administrators made it clear that the latter group is the one being targeted. Indeed, in what appears to be a Freudian slip, Qayoumi actually used the terms “non-California students” and “international students” as synonymous for a while.

Indeed, Qayoumi strongly pushed the H-1B issue several times, saying the foreign students later start businesses in Silicon Valley and thus add to the public good. He clearly had prepared that as one of his featured talking points, so much so that he didn`t notice that his claim was undermined by a statement by Nieto that the foreign students in her department tended to be very weak.

I`ve written about the quality issue here many times. The foreign students at U.S. schools, on average, are no better than, and by many measures actually weaker than their U.S. citizen and permanent resident peers. (I`ve been preparing an article for publication on this for a while, hopefully out soon.) Yes, of course, there are some geniuses among the foreign students, and we should facilitate their enrollment and eventual immigration, but they are in the small minority.

As to Qayoumi`s point about entrepreneurship, the real issue is whether the former foreign students in Silicon Valley are more entrepreneurial than Americans on a PER CAPITA basis. If they aren`t, then the displacement of Americans is not producing a net gain in tech businesses.

To my knowledge, there is no reliable study on entrepreneurship by the former foreign students. Most of them boil down to saying “There are a lot of immigrant engineers, so there are a lot of immigrant-engineer businesses,” which tells us nothing about a net gain or loss. The one study on per-capita entrepreneurship rates, that of Jennifer Hunt, doesn`t account for the type of business; as I`ve mentioned, the Saxenian study, for instance, found that 1/3 of the firms started by Chinese-immigrant engineers in Silicon Valley were in the business of “PC wholesaling,” involving no engineering, programming, just adding to commodity manufacturing.

By the way, this issue of CSUEB admissions has implications for bills in Congress like the STAPLE Act, which would grant automatic green cards to STEM foreign students at U.S. universities. As various people have pointed out, such proposals would have the effect of creating their own demand, and it`s clear that one consequence would be to increase the number of schools that take actions like that of CSUEB. Given the offer of a free green card, the foreign students would be willing to pay even higher tuition, and the CSUEB`s would have even more incentive to freeze out the Americans.

Norm