Did you know that American universities have become the place where the world comes for post-graduate work?

That startling fact has emerged from the quiet, but desperate debate about new immigration rules governing foreign students.

Universities are in a dither because the new rules may limit what foreign students can study when they are on their new American campus. Let's say some educational inspiration strikes and a doctoral candidate in English poetry decides he or she wants to trade in Yates for Einstein and go for the gold in nuclear physics... if he or she is from Canada, no problem. If he or she is from Saudi Arabia, the Feds will want to step in and to sniff over the situation.

The universities are having a fit because... get this... in engineering alone, half of all candidates for advanced degrees are foreign students.

That's thousands and thousands of people from somewhere else who have come here to learn. The universities have long viewed this as a great thing. Foreign students pay full freight, they are the research assistants for pampered professors. In fact, universities have gotten themselves into the position where they can't do without the cheap labor or the $30,000 or $40,000 a year those students pay.

In other words, the immigration people are going to screw up a really great thing and the universities are sweating bullets.

They lose the cheap labor. They lose the full-ticket-paying customers, and worse — the universities are expected to figure out who is in all of their classrooms. Is that Mohammed Atta back there auditing nuclear physics? Is that Marwan al Shehhi sitting in on that biology of anthrax class?

Not to mention the flight schools. They must be having a cow. Their immigrant student population is going to drop big time.

You know what? Good. Somebody please explain to me how it harms us by not being the instructor to the world?

Was it us who taught the Pakistanis how to build the bomb? Did we instruct the Indians? The Israelis? Just asking, but is that how the genie got out of the bottle in the first place?

Immigration agents at the universities? Good idea. Let's start tomorrow.

That's My Word.

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