Inside the Capitol

Saturday, March 25, 2006

3-31 Manny Goes to India

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Manny, Manny, where are you? They tell me you're in India recruiting computational engineering students for New Mexico Highlands University.
That's about as smart as recruiting National Football League teams to come to New Mexico. Neither one are going to work.
While you are gone, the U.S. Senate is debating an immigration bill and it's not likely they'll ease restrictions. Not only do they not want to let terrorists in our country, they don't want people coming in looking for jobs either. Not even if they've graduated from a U.S. university and have a job offer of $100,000 a year as a computational engineer.
You are right that young people in India can do wonderful things with computers. They have a thirst for knowledge, a hunger to better themselves and the best computer technology schools in the world. That's probably why they have nuclear weapons. I doubt any country gave India the technology.
When President Bush toured India, much was made of its computer graduates who said the opportunities in their field are now better at home. So they no longer yearn to go to America.
Maybe if a student can't get into a computational engineering program in India or at a prestigious American university, Highlands might be an alternative. But there's still the problem of what to do when they get out.
In the past few years, the U.S. government has cut by two-thirds the number of visas allowed foreign-born computer scientists. The demand is such that no more of these visas will be available until 2007.
And Congress doesn't appear likely to loosen those restrictions even if it might work against our own interests. We have become convinced by our government that we should fear all foreigners, even if they are legal, especially if they look different.
Liberalizing "high skills" immigration is the top priority issue for the electronics industry in the United States. It is so important to Bill Gates that he is now in the East Coast Washington, a place that he hates.
Perhaps you missed all this, Manny, while you were packing for your trip. But even if it were easy to get computational engineers into this country, wanting to spend New Mexico taxpayer money educating students from the other side of the world still doesn't make sense.
The mission given to you by Gov. Richardson was to make Highlands a premier Hispanic-serving institution. India doesn't have many Hispanics, Manny. And northern New Mexico doesn't have much demand for computational engineers.
What are you doing having such a major in your offerings? New Mexico already has three universities with strong computer engineering programs. There could be a reason that I don't see, but you need to do a lot of explaining to New Mexicans when you come home.
Maybe most Highlands students want to stay close to home and wouldn't take a computational engineering program elsewhere. In that case, having students from India in the classroom would likely increase competition and improve the program.
Having professors from India in the classroom also would be a great idea, except that they would need one of those unobtainable high-skills visas too.
And who is going to pay for these students from India? The standard of living and cost of living are much lower over there. Won't those students need financial aid that should be going to students from here?
If this is what the NMHU regents meant when they redefined Aragon's job recently to concentrate on its more external aspects, the definition needs to be more fully spelled out.
The idea as articulated by the regents at the time was that Aragon could secure money and recognition from the Legislature and from individuals and industry. That would seem to be his strength, rather than shuffling his faculty.
Let's hope that is the direction he now heads.
FRI, 3-31-06

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



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