of enrollment).2 Among science and engineering (S&E) graduate students, the percentage rose from 20 percent in 1982 to 35 percent in 2002, and it is over 50 percent in some fields of engineering.3 Recent estimates indicate that over half the postdoctoral scholars in the United States are on temporary visas, and almost half those scholars had obtained their doctorates outside the United States.4 Thus, about one-fourth of US postdoctoral scholars have been trained in overseas universities.

Talented international graduate students and postdoctoral scholars are drawn to the United States because of the high quality of our research universities, the availability of stipends and research funding, the opportunities for employment after schooling, and an “open-door” immigration policy that allows foreigners to obtain nonimmigrant visas for study and in many cases to convert their student status to longer-term residence once their studies are completed. Through the years, international scientists and engineers have made substantial and often disproportionate contributions in high-technology firms, universities, national laboratories, and other sectors throughout society.5Chapter 1 of this report presents data on graduate enrollments, postdoctoral appointments, entrance examinations, stay rates, stipends, and funding mechanisms that illustrate the often-complex interplay between student choices, educational opportunities, politics, and government policies.


Several events in the last few years, some of them shocking, have suggested that the nation’s S&E enterprise might be weakened by declining enrollments and that such declines could occur rapidly. At first glance, for example, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, appeared to have


Hey-Keung Koh. 2002. Trends in international student flows to the United States. New York: Institute of International Education. The IIE, funded by the Department of State, collects data on educational exchange between the United States and other nations and annually publishes its Open Doors report based on responses from over 2,700 institutions.


National Science Board. 2004. Science and Engineering Indicators 2004 (NSB 04-1). Arlington, VA: National Science Foundation, Chapter 2.


Mark Regets, senior analyst, Division of Science Resource Statistics, National Science Foundation, presentation to committee, July 19, 2004. Estimates based on NSF Survey of Doctoral Recipients 2001 and NSF Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates 2001; Geoff Davis, Director, Sigma Xi Postdoctoral Survey, comments to committee November 11, 2004.


Paula E. Stephan and Sharon G. Levin. 2005. “Foreign scholars in US science: Contributions and costs.” In: Science and the University, eds. R. Ehrenberg and P. Stephan, Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press (forthcoming).

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