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B-School Deans Take A Stand On Immigration Policy

‘A DISCONNECT BETWEEN THE MISSION OF GMAC & RESTRICTIONS ON TALENT FLOWS’

Boulding has been actively seeking signatures for roughly one month and expects more to sign on. “I never heard anyone say we disagree with the sentiments or the ideas behind what you are trying to accomplish,” insists Boulding. “But what I can say is that every university has different policies around how you approve of these public statements and whether that is something that should be done by a dean or a university president. Some people may still be considering and working through their universities for permission rights so I don’t expect that what you see now will be the list in two weeks. I expect those numbers to grow over time.”

This is only the second time a sizable group of business school deans that organized around a major public policy initiative. Five years ago, the White House convened deans’ support for a gender and family initiative. “It started with a private meeting at the White House that I attended but that became very public when 47 deans signed onto that,” says Boulding. “In this private effort, we already have 50 signatures and I think those numbers will grow.”

Boulding, a long-time marketing professor at Fuqua, was particularly drawn to the issue of immigration when he became chairman of the board of directors at GMAC in mid-2018. He immediately began to speak out on the issue (see Fuqua Dean: Immigration Policy Hurting U.S. B-Schools). “It was clear to me that there was a disconnect between the overall mission of the organization and what we were seeing in terms of talent flows,” explains Boulding. “The mission is that no talent should go undiscovered and yet we were seeing changes to talent flows, particularly in talent flows headed to the U.S. That is a large part of the reason you are seeing a significant decline in applications to U.S. business schools due to immigration policy and concerns over a student’s ability to stay and work in the U.S. post-graduation.”

‘HEY, THE PIPELINE OF TALENT IN THE U.S. IS BEING DIVERTED’

GMAC White Paper on immigration policy

Boulding says there are three reasons why business schools, while more typically engaged in fierce competition with each other for students, faculty, and resources, should weigh in on immigration policy. “From an educational point of view, we all understand that the more diverse our student body is the higher the quality of the educational experience,” he says. “So it is in the national interest to have a student body that is geographically diverse and exposes you to ideas from all parts of the world.

“The second thing is we see this connection in terms of what is happening with applications flowing to U.S. business schools and immigration policy,” adds Boulding. “We have insight into the data which is an early warning to people who are concerned about the national interest and the long-term health of our economy. So we are sounding the alarm to say, ‘Hey, the pipeline of talent in the U.S., in particular, is being diverted to other parts of the world due to these concerns about working in the U.S.

“And finally many of our faculty and deans do research to understand the impact of immigration on economic development.so we are experts on the consequences of skilled immigration. Skilled immigration creates jobs and opportunities. If you really care about the national interest than nationalist policies that are seen to protect jobs for your citizens have the opposite effect. By keeping people out, you create fewer jobs and you create fewer opportunities.”

‘THIS HAS NEVER BEEN ABOUT BUSINESS SCHOOLS’

Among other things, the white paper notes that historically India has ranked second only to China in the number of students choosing to study abroad. “As compared to China, where more students choose to return home after graduating from business school, many Indian students have opted to obtain a master’s in business abroad in part because of the ability to build a career in that country afterward,” according to the report. “As such, recent restrictions on work visa rules in the United States have led to a decline in Indian students applying to the U.S. Specifically, the percentage of Indians sending their scores from the GMAT exam to United States business schools fell from 57% in testing year 2014 to 45% in testing year 2018, according to GMAC data. During that same period, the percentage of Indian GMAT test-takers sending their test scores to Indian schools rose from 15% to 19%. 

“As Indian candidates’ preference for the United States has waned, their preference for other countries has trended up. When asked to identify their one preferred study destination country, over the past five years Indian candidates have decreasingly selected the United States (54% in 2014 to 39% in 2018) and increasingly selected countries like Canada 4.7%to 12.2%), France (2.4% to 8.1%, Germany (2.1% to 4.4%), the United Kingdom (6.6% to 8.3%), and Singapore (3.8 % to 4.9%).” 

Boulding maintains that the impetus for the white paper, which took about six months to complete, is not an effort to get applications from international students to recover. “This has never been about business schools,” he insists. “We are experts who can sound the alarm and help people understand the consequences of the immigration patterns we are seeing. It’s not about us as business schools. It’s about the economy, the country and the national interest. If you put up barriers around your country, the unintended consequence of that is that you reduce economic opportunity for your citizens.”

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