SAN ANTONIO -

In the world of higher education, Trinity University President Dennis Ahlburg has researched the link between immigration and college degrees.

And there is one element he doesn’t like.

“We are educating and exporting,” says Ahlburg.

That’s why Ahlburg supports the work of San Antonio based nonprofit FreeFlow Research.

The company, founded by Peter French, works to help highly skilled college graduates stay here after they get out of school.

Ahlburg says immigrants are responsible for many new companies.

“About a quarter of new high-tech companies in the U.S. over the last decade have been founded by immigrants,” points out Ahlburg.

The key to staying in the U.S. for immigrants is the visa, and that’s where FreeFlow comes in.

In the case of Walter Teele, a Trinity graduate who started the company ParLevel, FreeFlow is the reason he’s been able to afford to stay.

“We would have had to spend more time researching about visas,” says Teele. “We would have had to grab money from the business.”

FreeFlow does both -- research for the best type of visa, and help pay the costs.

Teele set up his company last fall. It’s a computer software system installed in vending machines that tell the supplier what is needed just by logging onto a computer.

“He can get a bunch of information from the vending machines,” says Teele, “from sales, to when the door was opened, to temperature controls.”

The software is currently in the final testing stages, and all indications from the testing software is that it works very well.

Teele has an investor visa, according to French, which allows him to stay in the U.S. as an owner and self-sponsor.

Setting up a company like this just made sense to French.

“We had a resource of people in the United States that wanted to stay and make contributions that couldn’t, and that seemed … un-American,” says French.

Ahlburg hopes Teele will be an American success story.

“We want him to be able to stay in the U.S. and develop his business, and then with his connections, he can develop it into a global business because of his connections in Mexico and Latin America,” he says.