[EAS] CS Enrollment and IT Jobs

Peter J. Kindlmann pjk at design.eng.yale.edu
Fri Oct 6 18:17:49 EDT 2006

In response to the earlier mailing 
<http://jove.eng.yale.edu/pipermail/eas-info/2006/000688.html> about 
Georgia Tech's response to flagging Computer Science enrollment, I 
received this Swiftian response from one of our Yale Engineering 
alumni. (I have his permission to reproduce it, but am withholding 
his full name.)

>I have a better idea:  I propose to hire any voter who has
>a Comp Sci or EE degree, who can't find a better job, and put them
>to work as a lobbyist.  They would spend their days calling Senators
>and Congressmen and explaining that there really is NOT any
>shortage of engineers and explaining that the H1-B visa program
>is welfare for corporations, etc.
>It would only take about 10,000 such people to completely clog
>up the Congress's ability to answer the phones.
>"Good Morning!  I'm unemployed and it's your fault!"*
>Too bad I don't have the money to hire a few thousand of
>the unemployed CS and EE graduates. . .
>*Actual phone call I have made to actual Congressional offices,
>perhaps 400-500 times.  It's a really good way to start off a
>busy day of job hunting, and it lets the various government
>officials know that you care.
>It's also amusing to call mid-level folks in the Department of
>Labor.  Nobody else ever calls them. . .
>. . .and you should have heard how rattled the FSO in charge
>of Visa Fraud in the Mumbai consulate was when I called.
>You'd think that no unemployed US worker had ever called
>them before. . .

The H1-B visa program <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H1B_visa> 
continues to be controversial, especially among IT professionals. The 
program presently admits 69,000 foreign technical professionals per 
year (195,000 in FY 2001, 2002, 2003), roughly half of whom are in 
the IT field. Although under the law their salary is supposed to 
match (within 5%) that of prevailing US salaries, the concept of 
prevailing salary seems a very flexible one 
<http://www.programmersguild.org/archives/howtounderpay.htm>. H1-B 
visa holders are often paid $30-$40K less, to as little as half of 
what a US worker would have been paid in the absence of the program.
The debate about the IT and engineering job market, and it distorting 
factors (Milton Friedman has called the H1-B program one such), will 
and should go on. Such circumstances, about which prospective CS and 
engineering majors can readily inform themselves, are unlikely to add 
to their motivation to major in the field.   --PJK

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