Students don’t take CS because of H-1B program?

August 13, 2010 at 11:48 am 5 comments

I don’t think that the data support Senator Schumer’s claim — enrollments in CS declined before the H-1B program, and I doubt that there’s any correlation of further drops with rise in H-1B visas.  However, the belief he describes in the last paragraph is probably accurate, that students don’t see Computing degrees as being worth it in the face of global competition.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) says that the H-1B program has created “multinational temp agencies” that undercut U.S. wages and discourage students from entering tech fields.

Schumer said the H-1B program has morphed into program used to hire foreign tech workers “willing to accept less pay than their American counterparts.” He spoke on the Senate floor in advance of its approval Thursday of $600 million for border security that includes an H-1B visa fee increase.

The impact of the low-wage workers is also “discouraging many of our smartest students from entering the technology industry in the first place,” said Schumer. “Students can see that paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for advanced schooling is not worth the cost when the market is being flooded with foreign temporary workers willing do to tech work for far less pay.”

via Senator Schumer: H-1B use undercuts pay, discourages tech enrollments – Computerworld.

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Alfred Thompson  |  August 13, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    I tend to doubt that H-1B workers in the computer industry are making less, let alone far less, that US born workers. I just can’t imagine it happening where I work and we have a lot of H-1Bs. Plus there are the additional costs including legal for getting and maintaining the H-1B status. Not only that top tech companies tend to hire people because they can solve the problems and do a great job not just because they work cheap. But Schumer has never been one to let facts get in his way. Sigh.

  • 2. John80224  |  August 13, 2010 at 3:27 pm

    I actually find it quite easy to believe that the companies this bill targets are underpaying H1-Bs. The teams I led prior to my layoff were from a larger Indian outsourcing company. The hourly rate the company charged for the visa’d employee was an undercut of what US contracting companies would charge and what got passed onto the H1-B was a smaller percentage than what is passed on normally. For one to get a raise, someone else had to take a cut. Additionally, I can’t tell you how amazed and grateful they were when we fought for their workload to be dropped to under 50 hour weeks.

    As to the bill itself, it has little more impact than to incite debate and try to show the public that something “meaningful” is being done.

  • 3. John80224  |  August 13, 2010 at 3:47 pm

    Also, the H1-Bs that the targeted companies bring on serve as anchors to more outsourcing. So while the H1-B himself is arguably within a competetive range, the further jobs being performed offshore are not even close.

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  • 5. Mark Miller  |  August 14, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    I was hearing about this back in 2003, the same complaint, though I was hearing it from people in the field. There was press coverage of H-1B and L-1 visa workers taking over IT jobs in the U.S. from U.S. workers. I heard plenty of “I had to train my replacement and then leave” stories back then. The counter to that from industry leaders was that yes this was going on, but it was a tiny percentage of the overall picture. They continued to say, “We have trouble finding qualified people to fill positions here. So we go abroad to find them.” They worried that the perception of foreign competition killing off prospects for U.S. workers in IT was creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. The problem I had with this sort of messaging was, “When you say you can’t find qualified people here in an environment where engineers are being laid off, what are you talking about?” I wished they would have been more specific so that people could get an idea what the real situation was. I suspect what they were talking about then, and still are today, is there aren’t enough U.S. born students getting Ph.D’s in CS, engineering, etc. Most of them are going to foreign nationals who are going back to their home countries to find opportunities.

    It didn’t seem to matter though. There developed a widespread perception by both people in and out of the field that the same process was happening to IT as happened to the auto industry, beginning 40 years ago. I was hearing a lot of “IT is a dead-end career”, and “Don’t train your child to become a programmer” from people in the field as a result, actually dissuading students from even considering it. It seems nothing has happened to change that perception.

    To me, the reality of what was going on was quite different. A good part of it was economic/financial. Another part of it was reflected in a panel discussion I watched a few years ago where a questioner from the audience brought up the subject that the top aspiration of male and female students in India was to become an engineer or a doctor, whereas we don’t see this same level of interest in the U.S. In fact, I’d venture to say that we haven’t seen that level of interest, on a per capita basis, for these fields in this country for many years. It’s just that in the past the level of interest roughly met the needs of industry. Now there’s the added burden of a perception that foreign competition makes engineering/technology not worth it.


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