Crisis in college STEM enrollment

Are the finances of high ed STEM education unraveling? The pandemic and Trump’s hostile approach to immigration are combining to threaten the sustainability of STEM departments at American universities. All of a sudden, it has become clear that globalization meant the U.S. serving as a factory for STEM talent for the world.

As of 2017, 81% of full-time graduate students in electrical and petroleum engineering programs at U.S. universities are international students, and 79% in computer science are. National Foundation for American Policy report in 2017 said that “both majors and graduate programs could not be maintained without international students.” It further argued that “the increase in both the size and number of graduate programs in science and engineering at U.S. universities indicates U.S. student enrollment has not been held down by the lack of available slots at U.S. graduate schools.” (From Inside Higher Ed, here.)

Foreign students overall are cash cows, as the table below shows. (From here.) This shows the net tuitions and fees of full-time undergraduates to public higher ed, after scholarships and other financial aid.


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