I am honored to have you in Boulder, and on campus here at the Center for Community.  The University of Colorado Boulder always welcomes the opportunity to serve as a forum for discussing the pertinent issues of the day. And immigration and the nation's global competitiveness is certainly one of those.

The nation's immigration policies affect our students, our faculty and staff. It impacts the corporations we do business with, not to mention the economies of both Colorado and the nation. So I'm very pleased to host our distinguished panelists here today.

Today's event also gives CU-Boulder the opportunity to partner with:

  • the National Foreign Trade Council
  • the Partnership for a New American Economy
  • the Boulder Chamber
  • the Boulder Economic Council
  • the Denver Metro Chamber
  • the Denver South Economic Development Partnership
  • and the South Metro Denver Chamber.

As the university moves forward into the 21-century, growing stronger ties with these chambers and economic development councils will be central to the university's success.

CU's internationalization initiatives

Our strategic plan, Flagship 2030, sets the groundwork for establishing CU-Boulder as a global campus, and now those plans are fully in motion. Our goal is to "Bring CU to the world, and the world to CU."  It's notable that Colorado's international students contribute $253 million annually to the state economy, of which $49 million comes from CU-Boulder students.

A campus internationalization task force has recruited students worldwide and developed cultural and academic support services for them. Those efforts are paying dividends: CU's international student population has grown by 30 percent the last five years, and we plan to grow by another 50 percent in the next five years.

One focus of our internationalization initiative is to formally reach out to prospective international students and their parents. In July I was joined by a small CU-Boulder contingent on a seven-day outreach in China, meeting with newly enrolled and prospective students, their parents and alumni in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, where we also have alumni chapters. Typically China is the top foreign country represented in our freshman class.

CU-Boulder a global crossroads

Today we have 1,818 international students from 91 countries. We project that we will have nearly 3,000 students by 2015, which will represent 10 percent of the student body.

We have an outstanding body of international scholars who come from the world over to teach and to conduct research on our campus. This year, CU-Boulder has approximately 700 international visiting scholars.

All of our international programs and dimensions are growing.  More students are studying abroad—1,162—about a 20 percent increase from five years ago. We have more cooperative faculty research, more faculty and student exchanges, and increased international content in our classes.

The impacts of the status quo

As one of the nation's preeminent comprehensive public research universities, the University of Colorado Boulder is dedicated to excellence—in terms of new research discoveries and in teaching our students. With these goals in mind, it is essential that we recruit the best and brightest of students, faculty and researchers.

It is difficult, however, under the United States' existing immigration policy to retain many of the top foreign-born students educated at universities like CU-Boulder, and benefit from their talents. And it cannot be stressed enough that while many of these students arrived on these shores with raw intelligence, their talents were forged and honed in our universities. As you all know, the constraints on recruiting these graduates negatively impacts universities and corporations alike.

America's universities are world leaders in developing the ideas and innovations that lead to economic success. They are responsible for 36 percent of all research in this country—including 53 percent of the fundamental research that ultimately underpins all technologies. These universities produced 16 percent of all PhDs worldwide in scientific and technical fields.

Foreign students flock to American research universities because of our prowess. In 2009, 45 percent of all graduate students at American universities in engineering, math, computer science, and the physical sciences held temporary visas. In that same year, 52 percent of PhDs and 43 percent of Master's degrees were conferred on students with temporary visas. In 2011, foreign-born inventors were contributors on more than 75 percent of the patents issued to the top 10 patent-producing universities in the United States. This intellectual property and these inventions lead directly to new jobs, new companies, and economic growth and success—in the United States.

However, current immigration policies result in many of these bright graduates being sent away from the U.S. after they've received their degrees. Once a student has graduated, the terms of the temporary visas often require that student to leave the U.S. As a result, the nation's corporations and universities are often unable to hire the products of this nation's educational system. Some of the best and brightest engineers and scientists from China and India must wait up to nine years to receive a permanent visa—and new visa applicants from those countries must often wait even longer. This is in the face of a skill-gap in the American workforce for scientists and engineers.

Those former students—products of the top higher educational system in the world—do ultimately get hired. However, their new employers are likely to be the universities and corporations of our foreign competitors.

Attracting the best and brightest to the U.S.

Modifying an immigration system that would allow the country to retain and attract the best and brightest from around the world will not only boost the nation's competitiveness, but will also very much benefit CU-Boulder.

  • A more international student body and faculty workforce will help fulfill CU-Boulder's strategic vision of "Building a Global Crossroads." In doing so, we could better fulfill our goal of making Colorado an international center for business, science, and higher education.
  • CU-Boulder's research mission is grounded in Colorado law. Attracting the best and brightest of researchers will fulfill this statutory mission of producing groundbreaking research that will benefit society, the state, and the nation.
  • Allowing the nation to viably attract the best and brightest will help the companies that develop from CU-Boulder technologies, as well as the corporations with which we do business. The university's goal is ultimately to generate, on an annual basis, contracts worth $100 million with private sector companies. Having the very best faculty on hand will better position CU-Boulder to achieve this goal.

Similarly, over the past five years CU-Boulder has generated 133 exclusive license and option agreements, and in the past three years 16 new companies have been formed using CU-Boulder technologies. Having the very best and brightest faculty and researchers at the university—regardless of their place of birth—will accelerate the development of new inventions and the creation of more companies. This means greater employment in the region and an expanding tax revenue base that will benefit everyone across the state.


In concluding, let me thank you all for attending. The university prides itself in being able to host and engage these conversations.

In order that we can train the best and brightest, the university needs to be able to hire the best and brightest. An immigration system that facilitates that will lift all boats, and fulfill a central mission outlined in our strategic plan:

The University of Colorado at Boulder will become a leading model of the "new flagship university" of the 21st century—by redefining learning and discovery in a global context and setting new standards in education, research, scholarship, and creative work that will benefit Colorado and the world.

Thank you.