Measures in immigration reform legislation would channel fees from high-skilled visas into investments for American students to delve into science, technology, engineering, and math.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP
Tucked into immigration reform legislation in both chambers of Congress are little-noticed measures that could pump hundreds of millions of dollars into cultivating a new generation of American students interested in science, technology, engineering, and math (or STEM). Such a move could help shore up what much of corporate America and many lawmakers see as a glaring deficiency in the nation’s long-term economic competitiveness.
The bills offer at least $200 million per year (but perhaps as much as $700 million, advocates say) by channeling fees from high-skilled visas into investments in STEM education and job training.
Specifically, legislators would increase the fee that employers pay to sponsor high-skilled temporary workers (visas known as H-1Bs) and direct $1,000 of that bump toward a special “STEM fund.” The fund would also be supported by an additional $1,000 cost to employers looking to sponsor H-1B workers for permanent residence in the United States.
While some argue that it may be counterproductive to boost H-1B visas, few disagree with the premise of more STEM education. Lawmakers and advocates say this funding plan forces companies that decry a shortage of US-born STEM workers to put their money where their mouth is.
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