A Higher Ed with Even Higher Disappointment

Photo Courtesy of Business Insider

Danny Zeng | August 2nd, 2013

Recently I have had very engaging conversations with a couple of close friends regarding the status of higher education today. The United States is famous for its world-class higher education system that continues to attract world’s top talents. It is reported in 2011 that about 746,000 international students, or 6% of college student population, studied in the United States. Our nation’s graduate programs are filled with students of other national origins. Many immigrant families aspire to send their kids through some of world’s most renowned universities. My friends and I discussed the purpose of modern higher education and in particular how does liberal education fits in present higher education model. As a student of both liberal and practical education, I often muse at the gaps within my own disciplines. As a government major, I don’t find my curriculum challenging enough. Too little emphasis – if any – is placed on political philosophy, international politics, statecraft, and geopolitics. More finance theory, grounded in economics, should be taught in business schools so the practical how-to can be traced to a solid theoretical foundation for problem solving. Indeed, there is very little curricular guidance from the University beyond mere degree completion – meet and consult over a checklist.  Wall Street Journal recently had a thought-provoking essay celebrating the demise of literature on college campuses. The author argues that alas students could enjoy and truly savor literature for their insight and brilliance without being constantly drowned in the intellectual cesspool of GPA gamesmanship:

“The destruction of the humanities by the humanities is, finally, coming to a halt. No more will literature, as part of an academic curriculum, extinguish the incandescence of literature. No longer will the reading of, say, “King Lear” or D.H. Lawrence’s “Women in Love” result in the flattening of these transfiguring encounters into just two more elements in an undergraduate career—the onerous stuff of multiple-choice quizzes, exam essays and homework assignments.”

McKinsey & Company published a study in May that surveyed more than 4,900 college graduates and made the following observations:

  • Mismatch of Skills. Nearly half of graduates say that they are in jobs that don’t require a degree
  • Underprepared. About one-third of graduates did not feel college prepared them well for the workplace
  • Buyer’s Remorse. Half of graduates would have chosen a different major or school
  • Brand Shoppers. Half of graduates didn’t look at graduation rate; four in ten did not look at job-placement or salary records
  • Lack of Opportunities. Four in ten of Top 100 colleges couldn’t get jobs in their chosen field
  • Underutilization of Recruitment Resources. Less than 40% used career services; less than 30% tapped into alumni network

The dearth of liberal education on college campuses has been an ongoing phenomenon that faculty, students, and administrators seem to have complacently embraced as inevitable. While traditional liberal education has been sacrificed at the altar of knowledge for transient vocational training, skill workshops, and non-core educational benefits, institutions seemingly cannot even live up to its watered-down mission. If higher education fails to enrich our souls and inspire our appetite for knowledge, in addition to failing to train the right talents for today’s economy, then what is the purpose of higher education? Did not the evolution (or devolution) from liberal education to highly specialized, vocational trainings produce a modern, functional learning model? If higher ed cannot live up to the latter and arguably easier part of the bargain, then the entire system would be nothing more than an unfortunate, generational brain drain. Understanding this question is not only indispensable to satiate our own desire for knowledge and search for intellectual wholesomeness, but indeed it will be critical to the sustainability of an informed citizenry – a prerequisite for a functional democracy.

Common Sense Skepticism: A Wake Up Call on Immigration Reform

Photo Courtesy of Washington Post’s Wonk Blog

Clay Olsen | June 10th, 2013

It is very difficult to keep up with all the news coming out of Washington with scandals appearing left and right. However, the American people must stay vigilant in focusing on legislation that has the power to radically change the country. Even though much of the media is focused on what is happening with the IRS or whatever it may be, we must remember that there is a group of politicians, known as the “Gang of Eight,” that are working to reform immigration. What does this reform mean for America (American citizens)? Surely it cannot be based on political gains, can it? For now, let us forget about the potential political impacts and instead, focus on the issue in a common sense manner.

The bill that the Gang of Eight has whipped up is over 1,000 pages long and is said to be a compromise between Republicans and Democrats. Of course one of the big concerns that Republicans voice with regards to immigration is a secure border. The bill only requires the Department of Homeland Security to submit a plan to secure the border; no action is required. However, we are supposed to trust that the border will become more secure after this bill passes, and we are supposed to give the Left what they want in return.

Let us take a little trip down memory lane and examine past immigration reform bills in our history. The 1965 Hart-Celler Act was defended by Democrats as being a bill that would not increase immigration. However, within the bill were the introductions of chain migration and the elimination of national quotas. Both made it easier for net welfare takers to be accepted by the immigration system. Illegal immigration increased from 2.5 million in the 1950s to 4.5 million in the 1970s to about 10 million in the 1990s. Again, this was a bill that Democrats repeatedly endorsed as a low impact piece of legislation with regards to immigration.

Immigration reform entered the picture again with the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act. This bill would grant 3 million illegal immigrants with amnesty. In order to get enough support to pass, it “promised” border security. After the bill was passed one can only guess which aspect of the bill got priority. Amnesty or security? The pardon of illegal actions or the safety of our country? As expected, amnesty was given and border security was not.

With this kind of a track record, I think it is safe to say that we should be very careful to trust the Left. They continually tell us that the border is secure right now. So are we to expect any increased security? It is easy for those in the D.C. bubble to claim that the border is secure when they do not witness and are not affected by the gangs, drug trafficking, and shootings that occur on our southern border. And obviously they do not want to know. They seem to not even care about the danger that is threatening our nation as displayed by President Obama’s Oval Office meeting with illegal immigrants last month while disregarding the opinions of border security officials and immigration officers. The job of these politicians is to represent the American people, not illegal immigrants.

Welfare benefits and government subsidies are also an issue when discussing immigration reform. A large amount of illegal immigrants would qualify for welfare. This large of an amount would have a huge impact on an already bankrupt welfare state that the left refuses to reform. I fear that the legalizing of millions of illegal immigrants would be like taking a flamethrower to an already raging forest fire. The Gang of Eight bill does not relieve American taxpayers from subsidizing illegal immigration. It waives the public charge law. The public charge law prohibits the Department of Homeland Security from accepting an application from an illegal immigrant that would be an economical weight in our society. So there would be no consideration as to how the taxpayer would be affected by accepting an illegal immigrant into the system.

The bill also sets up a slush fund for advocacy groups to assist potential amnesty applicants. Remember that “government funds” is another term for “taxpayer money.” Also, illegal immigrants would be able to litigate against amnesty decisions that they consider unfair. Again, the litigation would be paid for by the American taxpayer. No doubt, a concept that Eric Holder is drooling over.

So now we must decide how we are to go about fixing the current immigration issues. What do you do the morning after a burglar has broken into your home? Do you make sure there is milk and cookies out on the table for the next intruder? Or do you upgrade the lock on your front door to prevent it from ever happening again? Not a perfect analogy, but it will have to suffice. We have an avenue for immigrants to come into our country with no background check, no security scan, and no way of keeping track of them. We must fix the leak and then deal with those that are within our borders.

Now Marco Rubio has been criticized by some as scheming with the Left and praised by others because he is starting the conversation. I like how he is trying to slow the process down so that more people can comprehend the bill and give their opinion on it. I know Marco Rubio is a smart Republican, and I hope he fully understands whom he is dealing with.

How are we to respond to immigration reform? We must make sure that the law actually secures the border. The United States is the wealthiest country on the earth; I think we can successfully secure our borders. We must make sure that legal immigration is encouraged and illegal immigration is discouraged. Two immigration reform bills (discussed above) brought by the Democrats have clearly failed at accomplishing this task. Illegal immigration has skyrocketed while the legal immigration system remains broken. Above all, we must make sure that the law is in the best interest of the American citizen, a notion that seems obvious but is often disregarded.

So before a group of politicians try to ram through another immigration reform bill, let us remember the past and tread carefully when we talk of compromise. With an estimated amount of 11 million illegal immigrants within our borders right now, we must take immigration reform very seriously because it has the potential to have a huge, negative impact on our country’s future.

Things to Think About Re: Immigration for Tonight

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Danny Zeng | March 5, 2013

There are about 11-12 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., including hundreds of undocumented students attending the University of Texas at Austin. What drives immigration? What are some of the struggles that immigrants face on a daily basis? What is the political solution to this issue? What kind of discourse should we have to ensure that America continues to stand for opportunity and freedom? Join us tonight in GAR 0.102 from 6 to 8pm to explore these points with some of the distinguished scholars on this issue. Immigration reform has been on the back burner for policy makers of all stripes for a very long time now. Our nation needs to rethink how we go about managing the flow of immigrants and emigrants in an increasingly globalized world. We don’t agree too much with our friends from University Democrats, but we do agree on the need to take action on this issue. Instead of providing an exhaustive list of points to consider, I offer you the following less-emphasized points to think about on this issue that I personally find quite interesting:

  • Citizenship through marriage has provided thousands of foreign nationals a path to become U.S. citizens. This is under the “nationality through naturalization” part of the Immigration and Nationality Act. However, currently U.S citizens with gay and lesbian partners cannot successfully petition for their foreign spouses to become naturalized citizens because their civil union is not recognized by the U.S government. Specifically, the law states that the foreign spouse has to have been continuously “living in marital union with the citizen spouse” [emphasis mine] for three years prior to applying for naturalization. Not only this, same-sex foreign spouses cannot even be petitioned for green cards. These hurdles have caused some gay and lesbian Americans to immigrate to other countries to live with their foreign spouses. Regardless of your position on marriage equality, this is an incidence of legal discrimination against one group of Americans, pushing them away from homeland; such anathema should be considered for amendment.
  • The visa geared toward highly skilled workers, H1-B visas, had a cap at 85,000 in 2012. U.S. firms hit the cap as early as June of last year, causing many companies to lose qualified candidates who could greatly contribute to our economy, including graduate students working in American research universities. The cap needs to be enlarged or lifted to allow for a more dynamic movement of skilled labor and talents into the U.S. This will ensure our competitiveness in the global economy. Is the U.S. experiencing a labor shortage? Who are the winners and losers for allowing more foreign skilled workers to come to the U.S?
  • Some in the debate focus heavily on the terms “path to citizenship” versus “path to permanent residency.” In actuality, they are much the same for many immigrants, as many Latino immigrants stop short of becoming naturalized by maintaining their green card status instead. For Mexican immigrants, their naturalization rate is at mere 36%, lower than 61% for Latino immigrants overall, according to research by Pew Hispanic Center. Many choose not to naturalize for personal and administrative reasons i.e. need to learn English and cost of application is too high. How can we get people more involved on this issue in politics? In fact, net migration from Mexico was reported to be zero in 2012. Note this does not mean there were not people coming from Mexico, but simply that as many people are going from the U.S. to Mexico as well. Data also indicates that immigration from Mexico is at all-time low.
  • Asian Americans have become the fastest growing racial group in the United States, according to Pew Research Center. Though ethnically diverse within this larger racial construct, Asian Americans as a whole earn more money (median salary at $66,000)  and are better educated (49%  have at least bachelor degree). The group has grown 46% since 2000 – Texas being the second-largest growth state for Asian Americans. Today, Asians constitute 4.4% of population in Texas (Census data). However, looking through Asian American history, Asians had faced legal immigration barriers for ages  i.e. Chinese Exclusion Acts, Immigration Act of 1917, Cable Act, Nationality Act of 1940. The Asian population  especially Chinese Americans, have had a history of “illegal” immigration. A present influx of illegal immigrants from Asia persist today. How can we reconcile the relative affluence and talents of this group with components of illegal immigration? More bluntly, do economic demands trump legality?

Congress is projected to tackle immigration this year, as early as late March. And just yesterday, Secretary Napolitano called immigration her “No.1” priority. The political climate is ripe for immigration reform, if not at least major changes to existing immigration system. The challenges and opportunities facing immigration are rooted in politics, history, and law.

College Republicans are honored to co-host this immigration policy forum with our friends from University Democrats tonight here on campus. We’ve assembled some of UT’s top faculty in this field to join us for the dialogue. Join us for a lively conversation on this issue! #UTimmigration

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