Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business Dean Bill Boulding had a message for political leaders during a recent visit to Washington, D.C.: Immigration plays an important role fueling the growth of global economies, and the United States will suffer economically in the next decade if lawmakers don’t reform high-skilled immigration policy.
Boulding was not just speaking for himself, but on behalf of 50 other business school deans from across the country, in a project sponsored by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), a global association of business schools. Boulding chairs the GMAC board and led the effort to rally deans around the issue.
“Business schools are in a unique position to explain the importance of high-skilled immigration given our deep faculty expertise,” Boulding said. “Economists have long studied the connection between immigration and economic growth. Beyond the academic research, we also have GMAC data showing a significant shift in where students want to study around the world, which is an early indicator of which regions of the world are winning the talent race.”
GMAC released a white paper called “Early Warning Signals: Winners and Losers in the Global Race for Talent”, which examines talent flow trends into the U.S., India, U.K., Canada and China. The paper explains the connection between talent and innovation in a knowledge based economy during a time of such rapid change some are calling it the Fourth Industrial Revolution. It recommends policies to encourage mobility globally – with specific recommendations for reform in the U.S.
“Talent mobility is not just an issue for the United States, but for economies across the world,” Boulding said, “However, the negative trend is most pronounced in the U.S. and as business school deans we felt it was critical to our county’s economic health that we give a warning signal to lawmakers.
Boulding and 49 other deans, plus 13 CEOS, signed a public letter to government leaders warning that current immigration policies are hurting the nation’s economy. The letter ran as a full-page ad in the Washington D.C. edition of the Wall Street Journal. It was widely covered by national media including The Washington Post, The Hill and NPR’s Marketplace.
Boulding also met with policy makers on the Hill and explained the connection.
“I’m not a lobbyist and wanted to make it clear that we are suggesting broad buckets for reform for high-skilled immigration, but it’s up to lawmakers to figure out the details,” Boulding said, “I also explained that business schools can speak about high-skilled immigration with authority because of our expertise, but that doesn’t mean other parts of immigration reform aren’t important as well. However, reform has to start somewhere and there seems to be consensus on high-skilled immigration that could be used as a jumping off point for other areas of reform.”
The GMAC report suggested increasing the number of H-1B visas for international guest workers with specialized skills and higher education. The number of visas is capped at 85,000, but business leaders say the need is far greater.
“A combination of our outdated laws, artificial regional and skills-based caps on immigration, and recent spikes in hostility are closing the door to the high-skilled immigrants our economy needs to thrive,” the public letter stated.
Deans and business leaders are continuing to join the effort.
For more about the GMAC Talent Mobility Report, click here.