Despite previous consideration, Penn will not reclassify economics as a STEM major. In doing so, the University has missed an opportunity to make it easier for its international students to remain in the United States after graduation. While most student visas are valid up to a year after graduation, students who obtain STEM degrees can apply to extend the Optional Practice Training period for an additional two years. The University should prioritize the needs of international students by reclassifying economics as a STEM major.
Economics remains among the most popular majors at Penn, and it involves many of the skills that STEM majors must employ, like math and analysis, according to College freshman Ramona Sripitak, an international student from Thailand. In other words, economics involves substantial mathematical reasoning, and should be named a STEM major.
Mathematical economics is a STEM major, created to satisfy the STEM classification for international students. "Those who want to pursue a STEM major should declare Mathematical Economics," Associate Dean of the College and Director of Academic Affairs Kent Peterman wrote in an email to The Daily Pennsylvanian. Some international students have chosen this route in order to avoid visa complications.
“My parents sent me here for education for four years and it's a big, huge, investment,” said College junior and mathematical economics major Gehna Nandwani, who is also an international student from India. “I'm not just here to get a degree and go back home. I want to do something with my life.”
But for many, this option isn't ideal. Mathematical economics has four course units more than the traditional major, which can be less appealing to students who are more interested in broader exploration of economics.
Reclassifying economics as a STEM major would allow international students to seek valuable job experience in the United States following graduation instead of being forced to move back home. International students shouldn’t have to choose a major they are less interested in, like math econ, in order to spend more time in the United States, particularly when Penn could easily make the changes necessary to avoid such conflict.
Many of our Ivy League peers, including Cornell University, Columbia University, Brown University, Yale University, and Princeton University, have reclassified economics as a STEM major. There is no reason why Penn should draw such a hard line on this issue when the benefits are so clear.
International students encounter a variety of issues related to employment in the United States. Many already feel pressure to pursue STEM degrees in order to keep their visas.
“I know for a fact that visa status is a huge problem especially when we’re looking into internships because our prospects as international students in humanities are very limited,” said College junior and international student Aula Ali, who is majoring in economics. “If the econ status [were] to change, that would be very helpful.”
This change won’t resolve the issue of international students feeling forced into STEM majors, but it could have a significant impact on many students by giving them more mobility with major selection and security after graduation. Reclassifying economics as a STEM major would affirm Penn’s commitment to such a prominent portion of its student body, and their futures after completing their undergraduate degrees.
Editorials represent the majority view of members of The Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. Editorial Board, which meets regularly to discuss issues relevant to Penn's campus. Participants in these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on related topics.