Debunking the H-1B hogwash: STEM grads are pouring out of U.S. colleges

Data giants like Facebook say we need more H-1B visas to fill U.S. STEM grad void -- but the numbers don't lie

Can there be too much of a good thing? When it comes to tech-educated students, the answer is sometimes. On the one hand, the IT industry always needs fresh blood. But the large increase in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) grads is already driving up competition for the best IT-related jobs.

Consider the numbers released Tuesday by Dice.com, an IT jobs board: In 2011, 43,072 IT-related bachelor degrees and 37,677 associate's degrees were awarded, jumping 9 percent and 16 percent respectively over the previous year. The number of associate's degrees in particular has jumped 36 percent over the past four years, Dice said, quoting federal statistics.

[ InfoWorld's Caroline Craig explains why Silicon Valley's push for H-1B visas will hurt American tech workers. | Silicon Valley is lying about the state of U.S. tech education. | Stay ahead of the key tech business news with InfoWorld's Today's Headlines: First Look newsletter. ]

Between 2010 and 2011 six major universities reported strong growth in computer science degrees. They were: University of California at San Diego, 58 percent; University of North Carolina at Charlotte, 41 percent; University of California at Berkeley, 29 percent; North Carolina State University, 25 percent; University of Minnesota Twin Cities, 17 percent; and University of Illinois, Urbana Champagne, 11 percent.

Those numbers, as I argued last month, fly in the face of self-serving predictions by tech companies and their allies in Congress that U.S. universities are not producing enough STEM graduates, and we must therefore radically increase the number of tech workers allowed to enter the country on H-1B visas.

"As the growing demand for tech workers meets a growing supply -- a higher number of new two-year and four-year graduates entering the workforce -- the result may well be more competitive pressure for job applicants and a tougher fight among the best and brightest for coveted jobs on the enterprise side of the tech world," the Dice report states.

Wages still stagnant
There's empirical evidence to support Dice's speculation that competitive pressure may well toughen the labor market. Although unemployment in tech-related industries is much lower than in the nation as a whole, salaries have not increased much. Salaries in computer- and math-related fields for workers with a college degree rose only 4.5 percent between 2000 and 2011, says Ross Eisenbrey, the vice president of the Economic Policy Institute.

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