The US is stepping up effort to attract more international students, including Indians, to its STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) programs. This is mainly due to the growing popularity of these courses over the years and the US government’s plans to strengthen its economy and technological competitiveness by getting more global talent.
- The Biden administration recently announced 22 new STEM fields of study as part of the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program
- The program allows F-1 students in STEM fields to stay in the country for up to 36 months to finish the OPT program
- Over 78% of Indian students who choose the US for higher education go for these courses, research suggests
The Biden administration recently announced 22 new fields of study that will be included in the STEM Optional Practical Training program through the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP).
The program allows F-1 visa students getting bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral qualifications in some STEM fields to stay in the country for up to 36 months to finish the OPT program after their degrees. The new streams of study are emerging ones and are multidisciplinary and include cloud computing, climate science, geography and environmental studies, forest resources production, and human-centered technology design.
What It Means For International Students
The designated STEM degree list helps students holding the F-1 visas to know if they are eligible for an extension of their OPT. Since more fields of study are added to the list, it means more students will qualify for the OPT extension.
More STEM jobs are likely to be created in the next 7 years, meaning greater demand for the skilled workforce. The Biden administration has also taken steps such as faster visa processing and introducing new fellowships, which have come as good news for Indian students in recent months.
The Quad Fellowships were introduced on September 25, 2021, as per which, 25 master’s and doctoral students each in STEM areas from India, the US, Australia and Japan will be invited to pursue higher studies in the US every year.
More Enrolments Despite Pandemic
The travel restrictions and online learning in the last couple of years have not dampened the spirits of international students when choosing the US for higher studies in the STEM disciplines.
As per industry data, STEM courses are the most popular among foreign students in the US with 62.1% of international graduates being enrolled in 2019-20. Over 78% of Indian students who choose the US for higher education go for these courses, research suggests. In 2019-20, about 150,000 of the 193,000 Indian students in the US worked or enrolled in STEM programs.
With a slight dip in the number of Indian students in 2019-20 due to COVID-19 and other factors, the country is optimistic that the numbers from India will rise again. Notably, the number of Indian students decreased to 193,00 from 200,000 that year.
The US has been a top destination for Indian and international students as it offers some of the best academic opportunities. Pursuing STEM courses in the US can cost up to INR 60 lakh for an Indian student. Some of the top institutions offering these programs are Massachusetts Institute of Technology, California Institute of Technology, Stanford University, and University of California Berkeley.