Last year, I was on campus at North Carolina State University (NCSU) in Raleigh to attend a men's soccer game. Arriving early to find a parking space, I walked to the student union, known as the Tally Center, a marvelous four-story building with every amenity you can imagine.
After touring the building, I left and walked toward the soccer field. Thereupon I encountered a group of perhaps 15 to 20 young Asians, led by an adult Caucasian heading towards the Tally Center. Presuming that they hailed from an area high school, I asked one of the students as he passed me where they were all from. For a moment he seemed confused. Then, in very rough English, he replied, “I am from Japan.”
Eager and Ready
As I walked on, I looked back. These students eagerly clamor up the steps to the Tally Center. They were either guests of the university, touring the campus for prospective registration at some later date, or, perhaps on a private tour throughout the U.S. or the South Atlantic states evaluating prospective colleges. In either case, the realization hit me, global competition, at the student level, is for real.
In any given semester, during non-virus times, NCSU has more than 4,200 international students. If NCSU was recruiting students as distant as Japan, it apparently was doing an excellent job. The students seemed happy to be on campus and were buzzing with excitement. If some agency or educational service in Japan funded their trip, more power to them. Regardless of the trip’s sponsor, it seemed like a worthwhile venture.
As I approached the soccer field, I ruminated on my encounter from different perspectives. Would such students take the place of American citizens applying to NCSU? If so, how did I feel about that? Was it fair? Did it make sense from a national perspective, a state perspective, or a university perspective?
If any Japanese enrollees were not necessarily “taking the place" of American students, did it makes sense, diversity-wise, to recruit such students? Are American students being invited, or otherwise sponsored, to tour colleges abroad? Clearly, in U.S. high schools and colleges “junior year abroad” programs are prevalent.
If students from throughout Asia, India, and the Middle East are being recruited and given scholarships or tuition breaks, was I comfortable with that? Is the reciprocal also true? Do American students seeking to enroll in universities abroad receive tuition breaks, scholarships, grants, or stipends?
Globally, foreign exchange programs are largely a force for good with some exceptions, as in the case of those who overstay their visas, join radicalized groups, or otherwise engage in illegal activities.
Large numbers of Asian and Indian students enroll in U.S. universities with no intention of returning to their native lands. They want to stay in America for the high-paying jobs, the mobility, and, need I say it, the fun. As such, exchanges might not be such a good idea. Foreign students who end up permanently residing here do, potentially, take the place of American college graduates within the professions.
I am conflicted: It is good to encourage such international exchanges and to have an abundance of students from many different backgrounds learning in our universities and vice versa. I hope that what is occurring is not another in a long line of misguided “progressive" ventures that positions Americans on the wrong end of the deal.
As we have all learned of late, students emanating from the People’s Republic of China are not always who they appear to be. In some cases, they are here to learn, obtain their degrees, return to China, and serve their nation. In other instances, they are here to earn their degrees, stay in America, and rack up big bucks. And, unfortunately, some are here for specific missions assigned by the Chinese communist government.
Let the student exchanges continue, but let's be more vigilant in our vetting and ensure those who we allow to cross our borders are not here to steal from us. Spying and subterfuge does take place. It is naive to believe that it has not happened. The Trump administration identified pockets of suspicious behavior among visiting Chinese students, researchers, and scholars.
Not that we should be wary of every visa holder from China, but we cannot proceed believing everything is copacetic. Biden, likely bribed by the Chinese and naive about their intent, in his sheer buffoonery will offer no resistance.