American universities are experiencing some of the highest levels of enrollment ever seen. The burgeoning number of students, especially in high-demand fields such as health care and business, however, has created a different problem for the schools: a lack of qualified professors to teach the students. American graduate schools have not been producing enough grads who are remaining in academia to keep up with undergraduate enrollment.
In some of the most popular areas of study, such as nursing and accounting, grads with bachelor’s degrees are able to begin a relatively well-paying career right out of school. For many, this creates a disincentive to return to school for an advanced degree. A lack of properly-credentialed faculty members can, in turn, affect a school’s ability to remain accredited.
Community colleges, in particular, are susceptible to this problem. Such schools account for a large percentage of the trained nurses in the U.S., many of whom go on to universities to earn four-year degrees. At the same time, community colleges are struggling to lure masters and doctoral-level nurses to their faculties. For example, Inside Higher Ed reported that Cuyahoga Community College in Ohio has been in danger of losing it’s accreditation for the last few years due to its lack of faculty with graduate credentials.
It’s not just community colleges that are suffering, though. A university in Pennsylvania had its nursing school’s accreditation revoked, due to a lack of graduate-level professors on its faculty, which, in turn, drew a lawsuit from enrolled students. Universities in Georgia are facing a faculty shortfall of nearly 10 percent with position vacancies that date back to 2009. Even Baltimore-based healthcare juggernaut Johns Hopkins University has reported difficulty keeping its faculty positions filled.
The Solution May Lie Outside U.S. Borders
In order to address the shortfall, some schools have expanded their pool of candidates by looking to internationally-trained PhDs or by trying to entice non-U.S. citizen graduate students to remain in the country after they earn degrees at American universities. While this is not a complete solution to the problem of too-few graduate students — compensation will always enter the conversation when trying to convince professionals to leave a lucrative private career for the halls of academia — a global view does enhance a school’s chances for filling faculty vacancies.
Clearly, one of the hurdles a school will face when launching a global recruitment effort is U.S. immigration policy. By partnering with a legal team that understands what it takes to secure the appropriate work credentials, though, university search committees can spend more time vetting qualified candidates and less time worrying about whether the candidate will be allowed to work in the United States.
CEOs Support Immigrant Workers
At a Wall Street Journal-sponsored forum late last year, more than a hundred CEOs from throughout the U.S. gathered to discuss immigration law and policy. These American corporate leaders concluded that immigration at all levels is good for business in the U.S.
The group, in a vote, selected immigration reform as its top policy priority, in front of hot-topic issues such as education and even tax reform. The CEOs defined their focus as: “The U.S. needs immigration reform to retain talented foreign workers who have been educated in the U.S., attract talent to the U.S. and allow a freer flow of people into and out of the U.S. Immigration policy should mirror labor needs.”
President Obama, definitely an audience friendly to such priorities, attended the meeting to discuss the CEOs concerns with them. Unfortunately, the president hasn’t had much opportunity to act on immigration issues in his second term. For example, the Senate passed a bipartisan comprehensive immigration bill last year, but the Republican-led House never took it up for a vote.
While many of the CEOs’ concerns lay simply with maintaining a ready-to-work labor force, international talent at the professional and executive level can’t be underestimated as a way to boost the bottom line of business. U.S. immigration policy is among the strictest on the globe, and not even the most creative and talented of non-U.S. minds are spared the red tape associated with it.
Fortunately, highly-skilled and talented immigrants can be exempted from U.S. immigration quotas. However, the process of demonstrating that a given individual falls into the category creates its own secondary layer of bureaucratic quagmire, which in turn saps resources from organizations or businesses that attempt to negotiate it on behalf of their recruits.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reports that the demand for highly-skilled talent has grown globally, as has the supply. Countries like the United States, which create more difficult barriers to immigration, limit the ability of their business communities to compete for talent from this global pool. At the same time, emerging economies have been able successful in attracting highly-talented workers from the international pool by offering incentives and lower hurdles to immigration.
While U.S. policy does carve out an exception for the talented, it still does little to make recruitment and retention of highly-skilled internationals easy for U.S. businesses. In this era of a globalization and international commerce, this is something that will need to change in order to keep American business competitive in the global marketplace.