America no longer attracting top science minds


EXCERPT: . . . The United States of America became the most desired place in the world to study physics at the highest levels. [...] Yet, according to the American Physical Society, the past year has seen an alarming, unprecedented drop in the number of international applications to physics PhD programs in the United States. [...] The reasons for this decline are not yet determined, of course. But most applications to graduate school are put together in the late fall of the prior year, meaning that the 2017 figures are from students who applied in late 2016 and the 2018 figures reflecting students who applied in late 2017. While there is some anecdotal speculation that Chinese students are choosing to remain in their home country for graduate school as their physics programs have strengthened — the average decline in Chinese student applications was 16.4% — that figure fails to account for even a majority of the decline.

The elephant in the room, of course, is the tremendous shift in United States politics and, specifically, the country's attitude towards foreigners and non-citizens since early 2017. The 2017 murder of international student ChenWei Guo at the University of Utah is only one incident of violence against foreign residents in the United States that are likely causing many prospective students to avoid graduate school in the United States.University of Utah

This policy shift has affected far more than just physics and astronomy, of course. "The current administration's 'America First' mantra is causing [international students] a great deal of anxiety and fear," said Earl Johnson of the University of Tulsa. Across the board, international enrollment is down across colleges and graduate schools in the United States, as the number of F-1 visas precipitously dropped by 17% last year. From 2016 to 2017, the United States saw a decrease of nearly 80,000 F-1 visas in a single year, with the largest drop coming from China and India. The government's tougher stance on issuing H-1B work visas, making it more difficult for international students to remain in the United States and find work, may play a role as well.

The US State Department's new emphases likely also play a role, as the agency now demands that US consulates deny visas to applicants if the consulate is "not satisfied that the applicant's present intent is to depart the United States at the conclusion of his or her study." Furthermore, a 2017 study of over 2,000 prospective international students yielded the following troubling results...



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