As the economies of the developing world have grown rapidly and Western economies have grown less quickly, anecdotal evidence has begun to suggest that fewer foreign national students wish to stay in the U.S. after graduation. Reports in the popular press, and elsewhere have suggested that many of these students now believe that greater opportunities exist elsewhere in the world. To date, there has been very little empirical research, aside from the NSF surveys, into the post-graduate intentions of foreign nationals, and the key factors driving their decisions to seek to stay in the U.S. or to move abroad. This paper attempts to fill some of this void.
This paper is based on an Facebook survey of 1,224 foreign nationals who are currently studying in institutions of higher learning in the United States or who had graduated by the end of the 2008 academic school year. We found that foreign national students in our sample are planning to leave the U.S. after graduation in numbers that appear to be higher than the historical norm as measured in STEM disciplines. A significant percentage of these students also say they intend to open businesses in the future. This expressed intention is prevalent among Indian and Chinese nationals currently studying in the U.S. This would appear to be a marked contrast to the recent past, when Chinese and Indian degree holders were very likely to stay in the U.S. and continue working or in a research capacity (even more so in the PhD ranks).