Last spring, the Cornell economics department decided to discontinue access to Curricular Practical Training work authorization for international students in the major. This decision will force international students to get Optional Practical Training visas in order to pursue summer internships and independent studies. The policy change not only makes it much harder for international students to intern over the summer, but also jeopardizes their chances of finding jobs in the U.S. after graduation.
For many international students, seeking internships and jobs is already hard enough. After graduation, they must make a tough decision between pursuing and paying for a graduate degree and attempting the daunting task of obtaining an H-1B temporary work visa. The discontinuation of CPT will make it more difficult for international students to work in this country and obtain the H-1B visa. The concern that the independent study courses for CPT work authorization provides an unfair advantage to international students is inconsequential in the face of the vast challenges that international students face in securing work and obtaining visas after graduation.
The University should be actively supporting international students in their education and career aspirations and helping them navigate the challenging visa process. Cornell already devotes many resources to organizing career-development opportunities for students. Aiding international students — who comprised over 21 percent of total Cornell enrollment in 2015 — in finding jobs and obtaining necessary work visas is an obvious part of Cornell’s responsibility to students.
But recent Cornell policy represents a disregard of international students rather than acts of understanding and support. The economics department’s decision to end CPT follows Cornell’s decision to end need-blind admissions for international students, which some students say could limit the diversity of international students at Cornell.
Simply, Cornell should do more to support international students. The Student Assembly is currently considering a resolution calling for the restoration of CPT in the economics department. Not only should the economics department heed the S.A. resolution, which is likely to pass this week, but the University should also undertake a systematic review of CPT across all Cornell departments and work to ensure CPT work authorization is accessible to international students of all majors. Further, individual colleges should provide its departments with the resources administrators and professors need in order to offer CPT work authorization and other support for international students.
This struggle over CPT authorization in the economics department reflects a larger issue: the challenges of being an international student often go unrecognized.