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Letters from alumni about the number of international students at P.U.

June 4, 2003

Mr. Lang suggests that President Tilghman has been "whining" to congress about foreign student visas, and then wonders if there is "a dearth of qualified American students interested in Princeton's graduate programs."

The short answer to his question is an emphatic "yes."

A summary of a longer answer goes as follows. Those 40 percent of graduate students who are international are surely concentrated in the sciences. A "perfect storm" of market forces, budget cuts, etc. in the early ’90s has led to a well-documented huge drop in the number and quality of American undergraduates pursuing Ph.D.s in basic fields like physics and mathematics. The National Science Foundation understands this and is now, e.g., through its VIGRE program in mahematics, spending tens of millions of dollars per year to basically bribe Americans into going into basic science. In the meantime, those of us working in academia in these scientific fields continue America's long tradition of benefiting from the best and the brightest of scientists from overseas. For example, the last 10 people hired into tenure-track positions at the University of Virginia's mathematics department have all been foreign: scientific refugees from China, Russia, Rumania, Germany, Finland, Isreal, and Italy. One, like me a decade earlier, taught at Princeton before coming here, two others taught at Yale, one came from U. Chicago. Most got their graduate degrees in the U.S.

President Tilghman is to be commended for her straightforward comments on this issue.

Nicholas J. Kuhn ’76
Charlottesville, Va.

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May 19, 2003

President Tilghman writes in the May 14, 2003 PAW that "more than 40% of our graduate students come from other countries." This statistic makes me wonder whether the higher education needs of native minorities and disadvantaged, as identified in the University of Michigan litigation, are being addressed at Princeton. They too are entitled to the benefits of attending the elite Princeton Graduate School.

Robert C. Lang Jr. '70
Warren, N.J.

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April 28, 2003

The April 23 issue of PAW contains a Notebook piece called "Visa delays hurting Princeton." President Tilghman evidently whined to a congressional science committee about visa approvals for foreign students after September 11.

I was surprised to read that "Princeton's international students . . . account for . . . about 40% of graduate students."

Is there a dearth of qualified American graduate students interested in Princeton's graduate programs, or is Princeton now in international service?

Since the admission office does not respond to alumni letters about admissions, maybe PAW could inquire.

Robert C. Lang Jr. ’70
Warren, N.J.

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