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Expert: U.S. "Needs STEM Workers To Help Innovate"

November 30, 2022 (1 min read)

Susan D’Agostino, Inside Higher Ed, November 29, 2022

"Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security expanded opportunities for international students who have earned U.S. degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics to extend their stays in the United States. The government maintains a list of qualifying fields to try to expand the number and diversity of individuals in the United States who contribute to competitive STEM fields. Many of the 22 new qualifying fields of study on the updated government list, including general forestry, cloud computing and geobiology, fall within conventional understanding of STEM fields. Others, such as human-centered technology design and data visualization, live in the intersection of science and the arts. Since colleges vary in the language they use to identify degree programs, they are welcome to align their course outcomes to DHS curriculum requirements and make the case that their degrees warrant inclusion on the STEM Designated Degree Program List…. ...“I do not consider this to be gaming the system,” said Stephen Yale-Loehr, professor of immigration law at Cornell University, noting that the White House “very vigorously” consulted with numerous government agencies to ensure that the additions to the list of STEM-designated degrees were appropriate. “Ultimately Congress should decide how long international students should be able to work after they graduate and whether they should limit it to certain fields or have the same limit applied to all fields. But absent Congress’s ability to reform our broken immigration system, it is up to the agencies to decide how to interpret the existing law.”... Efforts to extend or curb work authorization for international students on F-1 visas in STEM fields have a “long and tortured history,” Yale-Loehr said. As colleges request reclassification of their programs—including economics, arts and communications programs—to see if they qualify, verdicts are arbitrated in real time…. “More and more these days, [the United States] needs STEM workers to help innovate, and offering those degree holders who have serious STEM credentials an opportunity to work in the United States for three years is appropriate,” Yale-Loehr said. “But Congress ultimately should reform our broken immigration system, and as part of that effort they should take up this issue.”