‘A PIVOTAL MOMENT’ FOR GSB
The STEM Optional Practical Training program is available to eligible F-1 visa students with STEM degrees from accredited U.S. colleges or universities. The OPT program itself was launched in 1992; in 2008, Michael Chertoff, then secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, controversially extended the program by 17 months for graduates of STEM-certified programs. The extension was expanded to 24 months in 2016. Eligible business school graduates may apply for the additional two years of work on top of the initial one-year, post-completion OPT granted to all non-STEM-degree F-1 visa students; to be eligible, they must have a STEM degree from an accredited U.S. school and must secure employment with an employer that includes a minimum of 20 hours of work per week and formal training within the STEM field.
The OPT program is seen as a way for B-school grads to acquire an H-1B visa, which are limited by law. In 2017, 180,440 new H-1B visas were issued. But according to just-released data by the Institute of International Education, the policy changes allowing STEM students to remain in the U.S. on OPT opportunities for three years after the completion of their studies is the likely biggest factor driving a massive increase in students on OPT programs, which jumped by 9.6% to 223,085 between 2016-2017 and 2018-2019.
As Dwivedi writes, the most popular route for highly skilled workers to remain and work in the U.S. has been the H-1B visa; in 2019, more than 200,000 applications were received for 85,000 visas.
“Failing urgent action, the management programs at Stanford GSB will become unattractive for future applicants – especially international students for whom the three-year OPT is a vital element in their choice of school/program,” Dwivedi writes. “This is a pivotal moment for the business school, where they can either decide to maintain the status quo and lose the brightest of international applicants who most certainly will lean toward schools that deliver more value by making their post-study employment prospects easier — or they can implement a change and argue for STEM classification.”
‘DESPERATE HELPLESSNESS’ FOR GSB’S INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS
Dwivedi, who has worked in consulting and finance in London and Zurich, Switzerland, plans to explore opportunities on the West Coast of the U.S. after she graduates this year. She writes that no matter what, she will leave Stanford with a degree from one of the finest schools in the world. But she adds that the lack of a STEM path unquestionably puts Stanford’s international students at a disadvantage to their peers, particularly when some — like rival UC-Berkeley’s Haas School — made the move to STEM retroactive to already graduated MBA classes.
“STEM or no STEM, a Stanford education will serve me and my peers well. We do not need to be reminded of this,” Dwivedi writes. “Silicon Valley engine runs on the talent we produce and the deep connections the school has cultivated with the local VC and tech community. I have been personally supported by the Dean, Associate Deans, and the administration team when I have proposed to orchestrate a discussion between them and the class (including domestic and international students). So, yes, we feel heard.”
Yet GSB students, she says, “feel the desperate helplessness when the leadership speaks of the long timelines related to any change here at sunny Stanford. But my empathy reaches its limits when I look at the long list of business schools — none, in my opinion, of the stature of Stanford — who have argued for and ultimately delivered a STEM-designated degree for their international students.”
Read all of Anupriya Dwivedi’s op-ed in The Stanford Daily here.
DON’T MISS STEM MBA PROGRAMS AT U.S. B-SCHOOLS
AND SEE P&Q’s COVERAGE OF TOP B-SCHOOLS’ EMBRACE OF STEM: