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Education United States

Why Is US Grad School Mainly Non-US Students? 1131

I am a new graduate student in Computer Engineering. I would like to get my MS and possibly my Ph.D. I have learned that 90% of my department is from India and many others are from China. All the students come here to study and there are only 7 US citizens in the engineering program this year. Why is that? I have heard that many of the smarter Americans go into medicine or the law and that is why there are so few Americans in engineering. Is this true?
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Why Is US Grad School Mainly Non-US Students?

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  • and? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Colin Smith ( 2679 ) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @06:11PM (#20796339)
    The problem is?

    The world always needs more lawyers.
    • Re:and? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by delong ( 125205 ) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @06:37PM (#20796563)
      This actually is true. Advanced societies that are governed by the rule of law and that require complex rules will naturally require more lawyers. Most people think of Law and Order when someone says "lawyer", but that ignores the far larger practice area of corporate and commercial law that governs extremely complex commercial behavior that makes a modern capitalism economy hum. Nobody thinks about the Uniform Commercial Code as a vital piece of maintaining civilization, but it is.

      Besides that, medicine and law are recession proof. Hell, they are nuclear-war proof.
      • Re:and? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by aurispector ( 530273 ) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @07:12PM (#20796831)
        As a practicing dentist I can positively say that health care is NOT recession proof. I have seen lots of folks with untreated or undertreated medical conditions when they lack insurance or the resources for treatment. Health care is less and less of a good deal for Doctors of all types because of decreasing insurance payments and increasing hassle.

        Elsewhere in this discussion it is being said that the purpose of higher education is to earn more money. This may be true for some, but it's also true that education allows you to do something more interesting or fulfilling.

        Regarding the original topic, my graduating class was about 1/3 were asian immigrants with a sprinkling of middle easterners, africans and caribbean types. Of the asians the majority were Vietnamese (incidentally these folks were the most patriotic Americans you might find - they love it here) I don't know of anyone that went back to their country of origin.
        • Re:and? (Score:5, Funny)

          by A nonymous Coward ( 7548 ) * on Saturday September 29, 2007 @08:03PM (#20797201)
          Your sig says I have mod points. The reign of terror begins now.

          The mod points seem kind of unnecessary:

          As a practicing dentist...
        • Re:and? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by budgenator ( 254554 ) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @09:40PM (#20797839) Journal
          Your problem is most people don't see dental care as health care, it's seen as an elective cosmetic and vainity thing. We know the the kind of havok periodontal or endodontic infections can have on the patients health, but tell the average person on the street that a gum infection can cause inflamation that can and does lead to heart attacks and kills people and they'll look at you like your stupid. The other problem is your dental school glossed over something and that's removeables, removeables are booming right now, monday I'm going to have to order more articulators. I've got so many dentures in the lab that I've run out of articulators friday, and the complete and partials are expected to just keep growing until 2025, yet most dentists just blow off denture patients, yet they refer out almost all of their extractions to OS and the majority endo all without get a referal fee from the specialists. If you want to make money, learn removeables inside and out, start doing your own extractions and endo except the really difficult cases, and do Medical billing whjen ever possible. Medical billing gives you bigger fees, less writeoffs and saves the dental maximums for dental care.
          • Re:and? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by aurispector ( 530273 ) on Sunday September 30, 2007 @09:23AM (#20800807)
            Wow. I can't get over the number of incorrect assumptions you are making.

            First, I have lots of un- or underinsured patients that can't afford perio or endo treatment; this problem gets worse during recessions.

            Second, the study proving that periodontal disease CAUSES heart disease has yet to be completed AFAIK it's due in '08. (Either that or the guys at U. Penn don't know what they're talking about) Yes, there are studies showing a CORRELATION between the two, but as we all know, correlation is NOT causation.

            Third, who says I wasn't taught about dentures? I do a TON of dentures but if you think about it, dentures indicate a failure of previous dental treatment. My practice suffers because I could earn a lot more money providing perio, endo, implant and crown & bridge services to a given patient. How much do you earn doing extractions and dentures? How much would you earn doing more complex treatments that would preserve natural dentition?
        • Re:and? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @10:49PM (#20798201) Homepage
          Problem is dental care is horribly overpriced. And insurance companies and other treat it as if it is a "cosmetic" service instead of a real health issue. Bad teeth = bad health yet dential insurance is the crappiest on the planet and outside of the rich you are hard pressed to find someone with good healthy teeth. I had to spend well over $10,000 on my daughters orthodontics, that is insane for a bunch of wires and superglued on blocks for the wires. at the time I was very much lower middle class ($60,000 a year) and could not even think of affording invisiline or the other upscale stuff.

          I deal with construction people daily and 7 out of 10 of them you can easily tell they have a bad infection going on in their mouth as you can smell it in their breath. (yes you can smell it, some are so bad that a mouth full of tictacs cant mask it) That is insanely high, yet the dentists and dental associations really don't seem to care about afford ability to dental care. when a patient is told, $3500.00 to save that tooth and put a crown on it or $490.00 to yank it out. Guess what the poor person ($35,000 or less) is going to do?
          • Re:and? (Score:5, Informative)

            by Fulcrum of Evil ( 560260 ) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @11:41PM (#20798507)
            In what part of the country is $60k/yr lower middle class? Maybe in SF, but you can pull down that sort of money hauling trash there.
      • Re:and? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by UnknownSoldier ( 67820 ) on Sunday September 30, 2007 @12:08AM (#20798675)
        > Advanced societies that are governed by the rule of law and that require complex rules will naturally require more lawyers.

        What a load of nonsense. You're making 2 assumptions:

        1) That advanced socities have complex law.
        2) Lawyers are needed.

        An "advanced" society will have people who have internalized the law -- they don't need others to interpret it for them. Do YOU need a law against killing? Of course not -- you know better. A civilization where people are blind to the consequences of their actions is not advanced. Advanced socities have LESS laws, because in reality there is only a few Laws: The Law of Karma, and the Law of Love, everything else springs from ignorance, greed, or power.

        Western civilization is by no means advanced. When you still have people arguing over Intellectual Property Rights which are neither Property nor Rights, you have an IMMATURE society.

        Lawyers are a necessary evil, because people don't know any better.

        The more numerous the laws, the more corrupt the government
          -- Tacit, 56-117 AD
  • by stevenvi ( 779021 ) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @06:13PM (#20796353) Homepage
    They accept those who apply. Most Americans are probably happy with just an undergrad degree and don't want to go to grad school.

    Being an American graduate student myself, there are a lot of foreigners where I am as well. I don't have a problem with it. Why are you ranting here and not in some blog?
    • by j35ter ( 895427 ) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @06:22PM (#20796437)

      Why are you ranting here and not in some blog?

      'cause he's wondering how the next gen of american CS's will cope with the un-american competition. Imagine a future where most U.S. tech-companies outsource R&D and production to India and china...oh...never mind
    • I don't see where he had a problem with it, either. The difference between you and him isn't that you don't have a problem with it--it's that you aren't curious about why it is. As an academic, it's rather odd for you to assume that curiosity implies anything more sinister.
    • by r00t ( 33219 ) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @08:41PM (#20797483) Journal
      We make it hard for them to become citizens. These are the people we should want most.

      Having them leave, then compete with us, is not good.
    • by XopherMV ( 575514 ) * on Saturday September 29, 2007 @09:08PM (#20797677) Journal
      Most Americans are probably happy with just an undergrad degree and don't want to go to grad school.

      Exactly. Americans find perfectly good engineering jobs with "just" a bachelor's degree. There aren't enough jobs which require advanced degrees in engineering to make it worth the time to give up 2-3 years of engineering paychecks, pay for college, pay for books, pay for living expenses, and earn those advanced degrees. More than likely, you'd graduate with a master's or a PhD and work at the same job you could get with a bachelor's degree.

      On the other hand, foreigners looking to immigrate to the United States work under the assumption that if they go to school here and earn one of our advanced degrees, then we'd be more likely to allow them to stay once their studies are complete. THAT is why foreigners outnumber Americans in these topics. It's not because they're smarter, not because they love engineering more, and not because education is better in their country. It's because they want to immigrate here.
      • by Foobar of Borg ( 690622 ) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @10:16PM (#20798017)

        Exactly. Americans find perfectly good engineering jobs with "just" a bachelor's degree. There aren't enough jobs which require advanced degrees in engineering to make it worth the time to give up 2-3 years of engineering paychecks, pay for college, pay for books, pay for living expenses, and earn those advanced degrees. More than likely, you'd graduate with a master's or a PhD and work at the same job you could get with a bachelor's degree.
        Actually, a Master's degree in an engineering field does generally correlate to an increase in pay and position. It's the Ph.D. that's not really useful unless you are going into academia or into some very specialized sort of field. In Chemistry, it's actually one step above that. You usually need a master's degree to get a decent job (though you can get by with just a bachelors), and a Ph.D. does really help since you can be a senior scientist in a lab. Although, from what I have heard, there are actually not enough BS/MS chemists to fill the bench work positions at a lot of chemical and pharmaceutical companies.

        Plus, in a lot of jobs, especially with bigger companies, you can get a job with a BS or MS degree and then go on to study later with the company's help. That's probably the best way to go about getting an advanced degree and getting decently paid at the same time. Unless you study physics. Then, you absolutely need a Ph.D. and you should get used to poverty :-p

      • by aaarrrgggh ( 9205 ) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @10:40PM (#20798151)
        More importantly, 90% of American engineering students realize that the only reason for getting an MS in engineering is to teach. I'm yet to find someone who thinks he learned something worthwhile in post-grad engineering school.

        Getting an MBA has actual value. Working and gaining real-world experience has actual value. Meaningful research is a noble task, but... there isn't that much of it going on in most programs from what I can tell.

        Contrast that with India or Germany, where you basically need a PhD to get a job flipping burgers (yes, sarcasm), and it is easy to understand why Americans are a minority.

        Also, it isn't a recent change; it's been true for the past 20 years.
  • by slashdotmsiriv ( 922939 ) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @06:13PM (#20796355)
    "I have heard that many of the smarter Americans go into medicine or the law and that is why there are so few Americans in engineering. Is this true?"


    I would give the long answer, but I have to get back to preparing a computer networking paper with my chinese advisor and my 3 chinese colleagues :)
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by siufish ( 814496 )
      Longer answer:

      Because engineering speaks the universal language - Mathematics. Medicine and law requires much more English and culture-specific communication skills, and it is very difficult for foreign students to break into these professions (except British students perhaps).

      It is also one of the reasons your medical and legal bills are going through the roof, but your laptops keep dropping in price.
  • by The One and Only ( 691315 ) * <[ten.hclewlihp] [ta] [lihp]> on Saturday September 29, 2007 @06:18PM (#20796385) Homepage
    India has a billion people. China has a billion people. America has 300,000 people, which is almost an order of magnitude less than India and China combined. Consider that many of the best grad schools are in America--plenty of Indians and Chinese come to America for grad school, but you don't see as many Americans going to India or China. All in all, Americans are fortunate that we can get the same education next door that other people travel around the world for.
    • by dal20402 ( 895630 ) * <[dal20402] [at] [mac.com]> on Saturday September 29, 2007 @06:20PM (#20796405) Journal

      America has 300,000 people

      The Rapture happened? I'm still here? Wow, that's strange. I insult God all the time.

      • by Panoptes ( 1041206 ) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @07:46PM (#20797089)
        Don't blame the poor chap - he was obviously using Excel 2007 for the calculations.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by dbIII ( 701233 )
        No, he's just the product of a US education system:)

        Yes, I know, it's most likely just an amusing typo written in a hurry. The USA is infamous for the poor quality of high schools but famous for the high quality of postgraduates. The undergrads in the middle must have it fairly tough to get to be good enough to go into a postgraduate program.

        • by Firethorn ( 177587 ) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @10:24PM (#20798077) Homepage Journal
          Probably has something to do with that only a fraction of our population goes to a university for a four year program, much less longer. I think that if you look at US Citizens who go into these programs that you'll see a noticeable skew in which schools they come from.

          Remember, while our schools might be below average compared with other first world nations, it's also an extremely fragmented system - unlike how some school systems are nationally administered, you have to remember that every state has it's own school system - indeed you can frequently substitute counties and cities in there as well. This means in that while the USA has some of the worst schools in the world - we also have some of the best in the world. There are regions where public schools would be considered excellent, and areas where anybody who's anybody send their children to private institutions.

          Finally, we've been concentrating too much on mediocrity - spending too much effort on making sure everybody we can meets minimum standards, rather than trying to push students as far as they'll go.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ScrewMaster ( 602015 )
      I assume you really meant that America has 300,000,000 people. In any event, China and India are both attempting to extract as much advanced knowledge and skill from the United States as they can, while simultaneously preventing us from doing anything consequential. The best way to do that is to swamp our educational system with their own people, people who eventually return home with what they've learned leaving us with, well, not much.

      On the other hand, given that America seems to have less and less us
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      I work for a research branch at NASA that routinely funds basic research at the Graduate level (both Master's and Ph.D.). Unfortunately, many of the students working on the projects that we fund are from foreign nations, and this is due to a lack of either qualified or willing US citizens in Graduate programs around the country studying in our area of interest (which is not space related). The issue is a major problem, and the poster and slashdot readers should be concerned. Be concerned, if for no othe
  • by MMC Monster ( 602931 ) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @06:19PM (#20796393)
    ...there sure aren't as many "americans" here as there used to be. Of course, I mean white anglo-saxon protestant males. A lot more minorities. A lot more first and second generation americans.
  • by The-Pheon ( 65392 ) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @06:19PM (#20796395) Homepage
    The best students in the world go to the best Universities in the world. The Universities in the United States consistently dominate the top universities in the world.[1] Thus, it isn't surprising that many people from other countries come here to study.

    [1] http://www.arwu.org/rank/2007/ARWU2007_Top100.htm [arwu.org]
  • Easy answer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Osty ( 16825 ) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @06:21PM (#20796421)

    Very few Americans require anything more than a BS to get a job with a Computer Engineering or Computer Science degree. On the other hand, it's easier for a non-citizen to get a job if they have a MS from a domestic school. As well, it's generally easier for them to get into shool than get into a job (the job comes after being here a few years and getting that MS), and gives a nice ~2 year jump on the whole green card process. If they somehow fail to find a job after getting the MS, there's always the option to continue on with a PhD while looking for something that will actually pay the bills.

    The goal of college for 90% of Americans is to get a better job. Therefore 90% of Americans aren't going to spend any more time than necessary in school, and if they do go for higher degrees it's usually for something that will increase their pay. A BS in CE doesn't get paid much less than a MS in CE, but a BS in CE with an MBA who's promoted into management does get paid quite a bit more.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by smurfsurf ( 892933 )
      You are talking about money, pay and jobs. But what about interest in knowledge and the subject matter? Is that a fringe aspect for americans?
      • Re:Easy answer (Score:5, Insightful)

        by servognome ( 738846 ) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @06:42PM (#20796603)

        But what about interest in knowledge and the subject matter? Is that a fringe aspect for americans?
        No, those things can be accomplished while working in industry. Work & study are not mutually exclusive.
        From personal experience, I appreciate learning in an applied engineering environment rather than the theory of academia.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          From personal experience, I appreciate learning in an applied engineering environment rather than the theory of academia.

          From my own personal experience (having worked in several different fields of engineering, and having down a couple of stints in grad school), I've found that the learning you can do in an applied engineering environment and the theory you can get in academia are complementary. Both are valuable, and each enhances the other. I've found that the times when I've been in grad school have be

      • Re:Easy answer (Score:5, Interesting)

        by PCM2 ( 4486 ) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @06:51PM (#20796673) Homepage

        You are talking about money, pay and jobs. But what about interest in knowledge and the subject matter? Is that a fringe aspect for americans?

        In my experience, yes. Most Americans go to college to "get a better job" or because they want to enter a certain field. They are, to coin a phrase, "goal oriented" -- school is a funnel into which they jump and once they get out the other end they can go back to living their lives, only now they will have been granted permission to enter into the career of their choice. So-called elite schools are desirable, not because they offer a better learning experience, but because they will "look better" to potential employers.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by kimvette ( 919543 )
        Yes, it is. Most people want to be able to pay for food, a house, maybe a car to get around in, and so forth.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rm999 ( 775449 )
      Good explanation. Here's a cost analysis for an American engineering student:

      Typical starting salary if you have a computer engineering BS: 65K a year
      Getting a masters: (-65000*2 years) - 40000 in tuition = 170,000 net loss
      Extra salary with masters: 5-10K
      Years to recoup losses: 15-35 years

      This is why many Americans do not consider grad school. Especially those who have college loans to pay off from undergrad, or who have worked a few years and have gotten used to having money.

      There are plenty of reasons why
  • by onyxruby ( 118189 ) <<ten.tsacmoc> <ta> <yburxyno>> on Saturday September 29, 2007 @06:22PM (#20796441)
    You have fundamentally asked and answered your own question and don't even realize it. The fundamental reason is very simple, grad students are coming from the countries that will be able to provide meaningful employment to those grads. In other words, outsourcing, or at the very least the prospect of outsourcing has scared away your potential fellow American students.

    It's a matter of economics, are you going to invest that much money and time in something when significant portions of the grad level work is being exported out of the country? With major corporations from the likes of Microsoft to IBM hiring principally outside the US in China and India, this is where the jobs will be and thus, where the grad students are coming from.

    The real slap in the face of the whole thing is that said companies than have the audacity to complain that we don't have enough educated workers to provide a workforce here in America.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by PhoenixOne ( 674466 )

      I work in a traditionally underpaid part of the tech-industry (entertainment software), and I can still make a good living at it. Not "rock star" good, but "new car and house" good.

      I use to think that the Microsoft's of the industry were just trying to save some cash by hiring workers overseas, until I had to interview for a co-worker. I'm surprised at a)the limited number of people in the US looking for a programming job and b)the almost complete lack of skill by those who did.

      Long story short, after a

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by AuMatar ( 183847 )
        Sure you could- pay me twice what I'm paying now, and I'll leave my job in a heartbeat. If I don't have the required experience, I know a dozen or so people happy to work on the same terms, all of them strong programmers and problem solvers.

        What, your company doesn't want to pay well over 200K/year? Oh so it is about the money after all.
  • by seven of five ( 578993 ) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @06:23PM (#20796447)
    no market for engineers in US. Market for engineers in India & China.

    Next month, no market for lawyers, doctors in US... we'll all flip burgers.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Courageous ( 228506 )

      Doctors and lawyers are protected by guilds, with barriers to entry and such, requiring local certification to practice, ad nauseum, ad nauseum.

  • Quite simple (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Rinikusu ( 28164 ) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @06:24PM (#20796459)
    A lot of foreign students are here on a foreign student visa. If they fuck up in school, they get sent back. So, by accepting a foreign student, the department has a very good idea that that student will be putting in 110% into the degree program, doing shit work for no money, whatever, when a domestic student is more likely to just tell an abusive department to fuck off and die and move to another school. It may also be that the student is less likely to be partying on the weekends (social stigma), and so grades won't be much of an issue if they made it that far.

    I thought about going to grad school for Biology as I have a keen interest in various fish and some local rivers & streams ecology that I picked up on my own. I had a sit down with the Dean of the Biology department where we basically shot the shit for an hour or two, talking about various subjects, including programs at other schools. He seemed surprised that not only did I know who the "big names" in my relatively obscure interests, but that I was also reading their papers and applying them. He looked at me and asked me point blank: Why the hell aren't you in my department? And I didn't have a good answer. He went on to explain that there's a ton of people in Biology grad school, but none of them were actually biologists. Instead, they were padding grades and trying to get into med school. While he was most certainly happy that they were going on with their lives, he said finding people actually interested in Biology was like pulling teeth. Basically: he'd pick someone like me, regardless of my GRE scores for the most part, over a mountain of med school hopefuls because it was his job, as far as he was concerned, to educate biologists. It was an interesting conversation. "Man, you could get your doctorate just doing what you're doing now at home on your own dime..." :P

    And no, I didn't go to grad school. Not yet, anyway. :)
  • by gbutler69 ( 910166 ) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @06:25PM (#20796469) Homepage
    Mostly I think it is because we're all too busy working for a living. Those who can afford college without having to work, do go into medicine and law as you said. Especially law. If you control the law you can control the money.

    Most Americans, even if they are really smart and work hard in high-school, still have to work while attending college and have little time for serious study. By the time they've finished four years of University, they have between $60,000.00 and $100,000.00 in debt. They look around and realize that if they go to graduate school, they will probably double that debt.

    Now, they've worked for most of the time they've been at University, and haven't truly been able to get all the benefits of dedicated study, and they are faced with more of the same. More debt, etc.

    Because they have work experience and because they can take jobs that pay reasonably well, they do so, figuring it is best to cut their losses.

    This is somewhat short-sighted, but, it is inevitable.

    A foreign student in the U.S. usually (from my experience) attended non-graduate school in their home country and it was a free-ride one way or another (I'm not saying they aren't smart and didn't have to work really hard). They are now in the U.S. attending graduate school, usually on some sort of scholarship (not saying they didn't earn it).

    They don't need to work to pay for school. They are not accruing massive debt. They can't just take a reasonable paying job in the U.S. because their student visa doesn't allow it. In their home country, reasonable paying jobs (without an advanced degree) aren't as plentiful. Their choices are, continue in graduate school while not accruing massive debts and yet being able to dedicate 100% of their efforts to learning and mastering the material, or return to their home nation and compete for jobs without and advanced degree. It's a pretty easy choice.

  • by SuperBanana ( 662181 ) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @06:33PM (#20796545)

    I have heard that many of the smarter Americans go into medicine or the law

    Medicine is not the place to go - there is an insane glut of grad students and postdocs. Competition is extremely fierce. If you're thinking of going for any sort of specialty practice- forget it. Everyone wants to be a *insert narrow specialty* doctor; nobody wants to be a general practitioner or go into pediatrics where we really need doctors. So, we have 50 zillion hand surgeons, and a line a mile out the doors of all the family docs.

    As for medical research - our lab is chock full of foreign students. The lab director prefers them because they're basically slaves- they want desperately to be in the US, and the lab holds their visa. They'll put up with shit pay, no/little credit for their work, insane hours, and unreasonable demands. They're just happy to be on US soil.

    Someone told me once that the lab couldn't attract US candidates because said candidates were going for higher profile, better paying positions.

    If you want to be successful coming out of grad school- go for engineering, either mechanical or electrical. Big shortages predicted in both fields, from what I've heard.

    Whatever you do, skip research - unless you look forward to flushing several years of your life down the drain to help some professor reel in a research grant, who'll barely care to list your name on the paper. And that's *if* the research isn't scooped by another lab...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I'm going to second this with a caveat: don't go into research if the only you're interested in is money. If you really love research for its own sake, then there are still plenty of opportunities. Get a good PhD adviser and do a bit of work to prove yourself, then you can pretty much work on whatever projects interest you. If you can work on things you find rewarding, travel to conferences and have the respect of your peers, what more do you want in life?

      Spending your time chasing the next Big Thing tha

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by antirename ( 556799 )
      I'm an engineer. I only hold an undergrad ME degree. However, I was helping my advisor (who was from Pakistan, by the way... he fled the purge of the educated in the 70s... great guy) with graduate level research my last two years. The reason was that there were no American grad students in the department, and those that were there didn't know english well enough to help write papers and, well, research other papers that were written in english. I don't know what those foreign grad students actually did
  • It's economics (Score:4, Informative)

    by SashaMan ( 263632 ) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @06:39PM (#20796577)
    Philip Greenspun has a very good article on why becoming a scientist doesn't make sense for most people:

    http://philip.greenspun.com/careers/women-in-science [greenspun.com]

    The article is titled "Women in Science," but it basically argues that the preparation costs for becoming a scientist (college, grad school, post doc) are so high, and the economic rewards so low and uncertain, that intelligent people are more likely to be drawn to other fields like medicine.

  • Why is that? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by djupedal ( 584558 ) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @06:45PM (#20796635)
    "All the students come here to study and there are only 7 US citizens in the engineering program this year. Why is that?"

    Less than 20% of the MBA's in India are employable. They skate thru school, sharing test answers and learning little. The system there makes no effort except to get them out the door. The educational system only wants to say how many have been produced, happy to ignore that the certificates are worthless.

    The individuals that recognize the travesty and know that the system in the USA is legitimate by comparison, spread the word. The ones that can come over do it for the legitimacy and the true value of an educational system rooted in honesty, hard work and individual betterment.

    The scale of the Indian & Chinese populations means that what is a small number over there seems large in comparison here.
  • TV for one. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by xigxag ( 167441 ) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @06:52PM (#20796683)
    It's very rare to see a fictional TV show revolving around an engineer, mathematician, physicist or hard science major of any kind. The only counterexample I can think of offhand is Ross from Friends, but to the extent that his job was mentioned at all it was usually in some ridiculous context. Contrast that with the hundreds of shows there have been about doctors, lawyers, judges, financiers and reporters. Hence, those professions are considered sexy and lucrative, even when they aren't particularly so (public defenders and beat reporters), whereas scientists are considered obscure and arcane at best, geeky and borderline irresponsible at worst. The one looming exception is the astronaut/astrophysicist type on sci-fi shows, but what they tend to do, blast through galaxies and meet aliens, is something so unrealistic that it doesn't lend itself to employment aspirations.

    Of course, it's not just Americans who watch TV but the problem particular to Americans is that their real-life experience seems to parallel what they see on TV, they deal with plenty of brokers, doctors and lawyers in real life and have little contact with engineers and scientists. Americans also pay their doctors and lawyers extremely highly. In other countries doctors and lawyers are not quite so highly compensated and engineers have higher social status overall.
  • That tag... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by afabbro ( 33948 ) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @07:37PM (#20797023) Homepage
    If someone used a tag called "becauseindiansaredumb" or "becausemexicansaredumb", everyone here would be up in arms.
  • by Dun Malg ( 230075 ) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @07:45PM (#20797085) Homepage

    there are only 7 US citizens in the engineering program this year. Why is that?
    An engineering grad student friend of mine has a theory about this:

    Engineering education is in high demand. Medicine, you can learn anywhere, as evidenced by the hordes of doctors in the US HMO medical system who only barely speak or understand English. Law? What would a Chinese or Indian national do with a US law degree? Engineering, though.... the US is the place to get an engineering degree. Subsequently, there is a lot of competition to get into the limited space available. The reason colleges are so willing to fill their slots with foreigners even though their supposed purpose is to educate residents of the state (which supports the school with tax money) is that foreigners are considered "out of state students". Out of state students pay extremely high tuition compared to state residents, originally under the theory that this would limit the number of outsiders coming in to take advantage of a state-supported school and then leave the state to go home after. But over the last few decades, state universities have turned from state subsidized places of higher learning intended to increase the education level of state residents, into state subsidized businesses trying to maximize their tuition, grant, investment, and patent income. They are required to take a certain number of state resident students, but they strive to maximize their profit by taking as few as possible. This is the "greed" motivation.

    As a side note, he adds that Indian immigrants are usually under enormous pressure from their parents to succeed in school, and that the Chinese students are scared to death of failing because that means it's right back to China where they'll end up assigned as the Third Assistant Injection Molding Technician in a plastic bucket factory in Shanghai. Subsequently, they have a tendency to vastly outperform "locals" and make up the majority of students.
  • by FreeKill ( 1020271 ) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @09:04PM (#20797661) Homepage
    The reason is truly lack of need. For an Engineer or Programmer, there really is no reason to pursue anything higher then a bachelor degree unless you are interested in becoming a faculty member or going after government funding for your research. Take computer science for example and compare it to Biology. In Biology, you really don't get into the practical aspects of biological work until you hit grad school. Only big research labs have the equipment, money, and expertise to give you experience in things like Mass Spectrometry, Microarrays, etc. Computer Science, on the other hand, your PhD level work is no different then your undergrad work except that you are working on something you're interested in and you get to dedicate your time at it. You're definitely not learning how to be a better programmer anymore than someone who takes a job is learning how to become a better programmer...That's why engineers and programmers can get a Bachelor's degree and have very successful careers while Biologists on average require significant graduate studies to reach the same opportunities...
  • Consider this (Score:3, Insightful)

    by EriDay ( 679359 ) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @09:29PM (#20797785)
    My niece and I both go to the same Big 10 university. I'm a PhD. CS, she's a law student. The university gave her a full ride scholarship that does not require that she work. I am required to work 20 hours a week for my stipend. The university gave me a desk in an office. I am the only English speaker in the office. There is a computer on my desk (one that nobody else wants anymore), just no display, keyboard, or mouse. If I want to work in my office I must bring my own personally purchased laptop. So I work from home where I have dual monitors, a mouse and keyboard. The university gave my niece a new laptop when she began law school. The question should be why do universities treat their domestic engineering grad students like crap.
  • by bigbigbison ( 104532 ) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @09:59PM (#20797921) Homepage
    In the humanities grad school departments are full of citizens of the USA. In my department there are as many people from Europe as there are from Asia and combined they make up less than 10% of the department's graduate students. There are just as many from Korea as there are from China (one each at the moment I think) and there aren't any from India. In my Master's program at a different school the only international graduate students I ran into were from Canada and that was mainly because the school was something like 3 hours away from the Canadian border.

    Just because there are a lot of non-US citizens in some departments doesn't mean that there are in every department. Now why certain departments are more likely to have international students than others is a different question.

  • by Wansu ( 846 ) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @11:52PM (#20798579)

    Most US citizens with PhDs are underemployed.

    The Ph.D. Glut Revisited [lewrockwell.com]
  • by technoCon ( 18339 ) on Sunday September 30, 2007 @01:06AM (#20798975) Homepage Journal
    To answer your question, ask how many old engineers you've met. Generally, an Engineering career lasts how long? When I got my Masters' in Computer Science people were talking about "structured programming" and things like OO and XP didn't exist. If you're going to go into Engineering, you'll have to spend a lot of thought keeping current. This probably true of medicine and law, too, but it seems that the human body and human nature are pretty much the same as they were a thousand years ago.

    You don't hear as much about age discrimination, but I figure it's real in Engineering (illegality notwithstanding) more so than other professions. Given this, it makes more sense to invest the extra time and money of post-graduate education in something that'll pay back in a longer career.
  • Economics. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Viv ( 54519 ) on Sunday September 30, 2007 @05:42AM (#20799993)
    This question keeps coming up on Slashdot, in one form or another, and my answer is always the same: Economics.

    For most students who intend to enter the commercial sector, getting the "one up" degree just doesn't pay that well. Speaking about engineering specifically:

    1. Graduate with a BS/BA. Get a job, work for two years, and you'll be on just about even ground (salary-wise) with the guy who got his MS/MA. And you won't have picked up the debt/costs associated with getting the MS/MA. I ran the numbers for me, and the payback on this is about 6-7 years.

    2. Graduate with an MS/MA. Get a job, work for three years, and you'll be on even ground -- or often better -- with the guy who got his PhD. And you won't have picked up the debt/costs associated with the MS/MA. I ran the numbers for me, and the payback on this is about 15-20 years.

    And the kicker: Anyone smart enough to get a graduate degree can run those numbers. This doesn't even include the opportunity cost of delaying starting a family while you pursue the degree.

    However, foreign students have an added sweetener in the pot: it's easier to stay in America to make the big bucks if you have a graduate degree. And this tips the equation significantly.

    I just want to puke whenever I hear US firms bitching and moaning about how there aren't enough American graduate scientists/engineers. It's simple economics, you bunch of whining douche bags. You understand them, because when demand for your products goes up, you're quite happy to raise the price. But when the shoe is on the other foot? You whine, bitch and moan about how employment costs are out of hand.

    Again, it's simple economics, supply and demand. Supply short? Pay more. If it doesn't, don't be surprised when supply stays low.

Recent investments will yield a slight profit.