We may be about to see the biggest splash yet in the STEM pool. Stanford Graduate School of Business says in the wake of a widely discussed op-ed by a current graduate student that efforts are underway to achieve Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math certification — but for which programs, and on what timeline, the school doesn’t say.
The op-ed, by graduate student Anupriya Dwivedi, calls for Stanford to “closely collaborate with comparable peer institutions and work toward obtaining a STEM classification for its MBA and MS degrees.” Titled “Stanford GSB and STEM: Just do it already,” the op-ed ran in the Tuesday (Feb. 11) edition of the student newspaper The Stanford Daily.
Noting that graduation from a STEM program qualifies MBAs to work for up to 36 months in the U.S. before needing an H-1B visa — 24 more months than would otherwise be the case — Dwivedi, a native of India and current student in Stanford’s one-year MSx program, writes that the school’s current management degrees have enough STEM-appropriate material to merit the 24-month extension. However, “GSB’s continued inaction very directly pushes its international cohort away, since prospective employers understandably hesitate to hire someone for 12 months who may or may not cross the H-1B hurdle.” With three years of work in the U.S., she adds, “business school graduates are not only given three real chances at the H-1B career roulette but are also saved from the perilous exploration of the jumble of 185 U.S. visa types. Pushing for STEM classification would make it explicit that the GSB is behind us and not silently abrogating its responsibility to its international students.”
Asked by Poets&Quants for comment, Kristin Harlan, Stanford GSB director of strategic communications, responded by email that in the most important point — the need for STEM certification at Stanford GSB — Dwivedi’s op-ed comports with the views of the school’s leadership.
SCHOOLS THAT ESCHEW STEM ARE AT A COMPETITIVE DISADVANTAGE
“We are aware of the op-ed written by a Stanford GSB student that ran in (Tuesday’s) Stanford Daily,” Harlan says. “Stanford GSB supports all of our international students and understands the benefit of a STEM designation. We are working collaboratively with our students and across Stanford University on STEM certification.”
In MBA programs, business schools have been rushing to achieve STEM designation to appeal to international applicants, who upon graduating qualify for longer stays in the U.S. without needing a visa. That’s a big deal when schools have lost such a huge volume of international applications in the last three years, mostly due to immigration hurdles (and political climate), but also because of the increasing cost of the degree. As Dwivedi notes in her op-ed, Graduate Management Admission Council research shows that international applications are down 13.7% for graduate business degrees at U.S. schools for the 2019-2020 academic year — which helps explain why, in the last six months alone, a growing number of major programs have gone this route: Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management, the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, Dartmouth College Tuck School of Business, UC-Berkeley Haas School of Business, MIT Sloan School of Management, and more (see links for each school below).
Now Stanford, which has the biggest MBA program by reputation — but also one that has not escaped the decline in apps, having lost more than 10% of app volume over the last two cycles — has hinted that STEM certification is coming. But Dwivedi, who met in December with school officials — including Dean Jonathan Levin — still has questions, particularly about the timeline for change.
“Something is going to happen for the MBA degree but not yet for the MSx degree,” she tells Poets&Quants. “And even for the MBA degree, there is no timeline that I know of. It’s not just the big schools — non-tier 1 schools like Wisconsin and UGA have done this to remain competitive. So if Stanford doesn’t make this move at least for the next cohort, if not the current one, they are going to see a big drop in applications.
“Already applications are on the decline. This is a no-brainer.”