An historic shift has already begun with over a 120,000 Chinese students this past year heading for education in European universities rather than take the more familiar route to the United States. The Patriot Act, and other restrictions caused by America’s fear of terrorism, have made the United States a less desirable destination for young Chinese students seeking higher education. The European Union launched a “Erasmus Mundes” program in 2004 which will have granted $327 million in grants to foreign students by 2009 in order to get them to attend EU institutions. Jan Figel, EU commissioner of Education notes: “When people speak of education,especially higher education, they often think of the US. But actually, universities in the EU are overall, the most attractive because they have a diversity of cultures and teaching methods.” The European Union this week will institute a “fast track” program enabling highly educated immigrants to quickly obtain a “blue card” allowing them to work in the European Union and bring their families. Any student who obtains a B.A. from a EU University will immediately be eligible for a blue card which guarantees all rights such as medical insurance as those held by EU nationals.
Lost in the fears caused by the Patriot Act and the Bush fear program about foreigners is a significant shift in world affairs. America increasingly is becoming more difficult to enter and a less desirable place for highly educated people. The United States for half a century was able to attract and keep hundreds of thousands of skilled workers, but this advantage is slipping away. This is another legacy of the Bush program to create fear in America, but, unfortunately, the fear program is keeping out skilled individuals needed by modern economies.