Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Promote STEM Education to Reduce Dependence on H1B Foreign Skilled Workers (Part 2 of 2)

Promoting STEM Education in the US   

1. Interest-free Student Loans must be provided to All Qualified STEM Candidates – Instead of enticing foreign STEM graduates with visa adjustments, we must learn to nurture our own. And, it must start with an awareness movement at the middle and high school. At the core of this movement lies the marketing of the awareness to the female students in that they have “equal access” to this career domain. Until and unless our young daughters are convinced of the equal access, we will have no choice but to depend on foreign employees. In promoting STEM education, teachers and counselors must also explain to the students that 10’s of thousands of STEM jobs remain unfilled and, as a result, our “volume” employers are forced to hire foreign employees to fill voids. Interest-free student loans could be a big incentive to entice more students to look into this colossal and unrestricted career domain. Obviously, once accepted, the qualified yet economically disadvantaged students, irrespective of ethnicity, must continue to receive (full) free STEM education, at both public and private institutions.     

2. STEM Students in State Schools must qualify for Financial Aids ahead of all Other Majors – In addition to interest-free student loans, STEM students must receive financial aids ahead of their counterparts. Given the urgent need for STEM graduates in our economy, it does not make much sense anymore to treat all economic needs equally. At this point, college education must be compared with and treated like government services, meaning essential education (like essential government services) must always receive higher weights and protections than the not-so-essential education (like non-essential government services). Simply put, STEM education must be declared, protected and promoted as essential education. Ceteris paribus, the qualified STEM student population must get the first shot at the pool of financial aids and the residual will then be distributed to the other disciplines. To make things clear, it has been assumed that health and mental care education – another market area with critical shortages – is part and parcel of STEM, specifically part of ‘S.’   

3. Ideally, We need a Moratorium on Student Loans for Business and Humanities Majors – Due to the easy access to student loans, far too many students – relative to the aggregate market demand – continue to major in business and humanities, resulting in significant disguised unemployment all across the country, arguably reaching a point of moral hazard. In order to reduce the incidence of disguised unemployment, we need a moratorium on such student loans for a period of time, at least 5 to 7 years, thus allowing enough time to get the excess market supply meaningfully absorbed while the wage level rising back to the equilibrium. This pause will allow Sallie Mae to re-evaluate its existing debt load, meaning if they could use a meaningful stress test to evaluate if they might be approaching the "too big to fail" threshold. Meanwhile, a good chunk of the potential fallout population (business and humanities majors) would be redirected to the STEM universe. Sadly, if this decline is not arrested, the possibility of a bailout would be on the horizon in not too distant future (considering the student loan portfolio in the US has recently eclipsed $1.5T). Absent student loans for business and humanities, only a small percentage of the future student population – mostly from the well-to-do families and foreign students – will opt for these majors. Obviously, neither group would pose any renewed threat to the labor force or contribute to the accentuation of the bailout scenario.  

4. Encourage Ivy League and other Renowned Schools to Eradicate "Legacy" Admission - Though Harvard is a legacy school for my family (my son has graduated from Harvard), I am opposed to the legacy admission system as it tantamounts to a "privileged" quota system. Any quota system is detrimental to overall growth and equality. Yes, applicants from the poorer families must not be discriminated against, but that financial hand-holding must come in the form of added financial aids. Therefore, the better way to handle that event is to increase the family income limit from $60K to $100K for full free-ships. Even a geo-indexed multiplier could be experimented (Case in point: The purchasing power of $100K family income in NYC is significantly lower than that of Wichita, KS, so to say). In a free society, merit must never be compromised. For instance, if a particular ethnic group qualifies for 60% of all admissions at Harvard, they must be admitted as such, unconditionally. Of course, to promote STEM education, Ivys and other major schools should offer financial aids to qualified STEM applicants ahead of the other disciplines, for a period of time, until our home-grown STEMs are well-represented on the labor force.    

Again, in order to reduce our continued dependence on H1B foreign workers, it’s high time that we promote STEM education here by making it significantly cheaper and more labor-force friendly. Our kids deserve better!

- Sid Som, MBA, MIM
President, Homequant, Inc.

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