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University G7: migrant policies hitting colleges - Stanley

Interview with Stony Brook president

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A highly distinguished biomedical researcher, Dr. Samuel L. Stanley, MD, was one of the nation's highest recipients of support from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for his research on enhanced defense against emerging infectious diseases. Since 2009 he is the fifth President of Stony Brook University, one of the most prestigious research institutions of the United States.

1) With a prediction of 400 million students by the year 2030, do you think that the political message "College Education for all" can realistically be pursued in a globalized, yet polarized, world? In the current economic moment, all individuals should engage in education beyond secondary school. Stony Brook remains committed to lead in providing access to the highest quality postsecondary education -- a 2017 study from Stanford showed that we are the top highly selective university in the United States at fostering economic mobility through education.

2) Can you tell us more of the Stanford study? The Stanford team used over 50 million de-identified tax records to track students nationwide over a decade. Not only was Stony Brook among the top 10 colleges and universities who demonstrated consistent results in moving from lower income quintiles to upper income quintiles, but also we were the only highly selective institution to be among the top ten. Stony Brook has a range of programs for economically disadvantaged or underrepresented students that allow to excel in their chosen fields. Our success has resulted in student from lower economic backgrounds (Pell grant recipients) to graduate at higher rates that students with more economic advantages.

3) In Udine you will compare your experiences and aspirations with colleagues across the industrialized world. What do you hope to share and bring back? As a globally prominent research university, we pride in our leadership in educational excellence, research, and highest quality health care. Stony Brook over the past five years has increased our 4-year graduation rate almost 10%, and closed the performance gaps among disadvantaged groups in ways that other universities in the U.S. and around the world have not. We have hired over 300 net new full-time faculty (113 on tenure track) to conduct cutting edge research in energy technology, engineering, and medicine. And we have greatly expanded our health care and hospital operations. With one out of five students at Stony Brook from other countries, I hope to bring back more ways to make our university a welcoming and vibrant community where international students and students from all backgrounds can thrive.

4) Do you see an impact of the new immigration measures, either applied or just proposed? The international students add tremendous diversity and vibrancy to our campus. New immigration policies, coupled with xenophobic rhetoric and actions both before and after the election, are undoing the compact between the United States and those seeking opportunities from around the world. Research universities are seeing an immediate effect on the recruitment of international faculty and students.

5) What do you see happening at Stony Brook? We have seen a decline of roughly 10% in international applications for graduate school this year, a figure on a par with the decline seen at other institutions. The reasons may not be solely based on anti-immigration policies and rhetoric, but some accepted applicants to Stony Brook, especially from countries targeted by the first Executive Order, have stated that they will choose a Canadian or Australian university instead, based on the uncertainty of U.S. immigration policy and the fact that they are being singled out based on their country of origin, not on their academic credentials. Policy needs to be based on facts, not fear.