Economy Tough on International Students

May 27th, 2010 by Keith Clausen

A recent article in The Daily 49er, the online newspaper for Cal State Long Beach, explores how the poor economy impacts international students, amid drastic cuts in California public education, a weak job market and rising tuition costs. Cal State Long Beach attracts students from around the world. Here is an excerpt from the article:

“The down economy, cuts to the university’s budget and fee increases have affected students on many levels. Job-seeking international students have not been immune.

Last summer, the state reduced the 2009-2010 California State University budget by $571 million. Cal State Long Beach’s share of the cut was $44 million. Faculty and staff
furloughs were implemented, about 1,000 classes were cancelled, and tuition jumped by 30 percent from the 2008-2009 price. Nonresident student fees also increased.

“When you have an economic situation where money is really tight, you’re going to see a reduction in opportunities for everyone,” Inemesit Williams, study abroad adviser for the
Center for International Education (CIE), said. “On top of that, when at the same time you have in increase in fees, students are going to scramble to find ways to cover these new
costs.”

Last fall, there were 1,236 international students on campus. That is about 3.5 percent of the nearly 35,000-student population. They come from more than 40 countries from Australia, to Brazil and Zambia, with more than half from East or Southeast Asia. International students have either an F-1 student visa or a J-1 Exchange Visitor visa.  Under U.S. law, these visas allow them to work on campus, or off campus in a field related to their studies for a set time during school and after graduation.

Those who aspire to work for several years need a company to sponsor their application for an H-1B Temporary Worker visa. As the U.S. Department of Labor defines it: “The H-1B
program allows an employer to temporarily employ a foreign worker in the U.S. on a nonimmigrant basis in a specialty occupation or as a fashion model of distinguished merit and ability.”

The spike in unemployment over the past year and a half in Southern California has  increased the stakes for international students who want to land a long-term job. The
seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for Los Angeles County was 12.4 percent in March, up from 7.9 percent in August 2008.

The Career Development Center (CDC) on campus has hosted workshops targeting international students. These include seminars on finding an internship and writing an American-style résumé. CDC Counselor Wayne Tokunaga stressed the importance of doing all one can to be marketable.

“If your experience is the exact same as a U.S. citizen’s, they don’t have to sponsor a U.S. citizen for H1B,” Tokunaga said. “They’ll just go with a U.S. citizen because it’s
easier.”

To read the rest of the article, click here.

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