Michael Wenye Li / Sun Photography Editor

The economics major, housed in Uris Hall, has been reclassified as a STEM program.

September 24, 2018

Economics Major Recertified as STEM, International Students Eligible for Two More Years of Work Authorization

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After months of lobbying by international students, the economics major has been reclassified as a STEM program, giving international students studying economics up to three years of U.S. work authorization post-graduation.

Prof. Wendy Wolford, vice provost for international affairs, confirmed to The Sun that the economics major was successfully re-classified without any changes to the curriculum on Sept. 18. Michael F. Lovenheim, chair of the economics department, added that the major was reclassified in early September.

There are 17 current students who have officially declared economics as a major and are international students with F1 visas. This does not include under-classmen who are pursuing the major but have yet to declare. Christopher Schott ’18, former S.A. international students liaison, previously claimed that roughly 50 international students study economics.

According to Dr.Uttiyo Raychaudhuri, executive director of the Office of Global Learning, any economics student who graduated in December 2017 or later is eligible for the work authorization extension, including the 17 currently enrolled international students who have declared the economics major.

“The recertification of the economics [major] is something that will truly benefit a lot of international students and their future,” said Akanksha Jain ’20, current S.A. international students liaison.

Non-STEM students studying in the United States on F1 student visas typically only have one year of work authorization, which means they must leave the country after the authorization expires. STEM majors however are allowed to work in the United States for two years, according to regulations governed by the Department of Homeland Security.

“We are happy to assist with our part in supporting the international students as this resonates with our mission of developing and supporting the next generation of global citizens by fostering mobility, exploration, and international and cultural exchange,” Raychaudhuri said in a statement to The Sun.

Lovenheim said that he was “not formally planning to announce [the reclassification,] per se.” However, Raychaudhuri told The Sun that the International Services in the Office of Global Learning is currently working to “confirm all of the international students who are affected by this change, update each of their immigration records, print new I-20 forms, and notify all of the affected students.”

“It takes some time to change all of the university systems to fully implement to the point where we can change the immigration records,” Raychaudhuri added.

The recertification of the economics major is the culmination of months of activism by international students.

Last semester, the Student Assembly and the University Assembly both petitioned the University to request the New York state government to change the classification of the economics major as a STEM study in resolutions sponsored by Schott.

University administrators responded positively to the S.A. resolution, with Prof. Lawrence Blume, then-chair of the economics department, confirming to The Sun previously that the department “will pursue certification” absent any significant barriers. Prof. Charlie Van Loan, dean of faculty, also signaled that recertification would be a “nice idea” in an email included in the S.A. resolution’s appendix.

But, despite the support of the University, the outcome of the push to recertify the major remained uncertain and out of Cornell’s control. Reclassification of a major is a lengthy bureaucratic process where the N.Y. state government evaluates if a particular major fulfills federal guidelines that lists what a STEM major should have, Schott previously told The Sun. 

Raychaudhuri said that this process has now concluded, changing the federal classification of the economics major from Economics — a non-STEM program — to econometrics, which is a STEM major. 

The National Center for Education Statistics reports that a major qualifies as economics if they are a“general program that focuses on the systemic study of the production, conservation and allocation of resources.” Meanwhile, a study must focus on“mathematical and statistical analysis” to be categorized as econometrics according to federal guidelines.

Cornell’s economics major students are required to take at least one statistics course and one econometrics course to graduate. Other courses mandatory for economics major also require students to learn quantitative methods.

Schott previously told The Sun that some University administrators were concerned that changing the certification of the major could make the federal government more inclined to change guidelines to make it harder to change the classifications of majors in the future.

When asked by The Sun if he shares concern for federal reaction to the reclassification, Raychaudhuri said that it is “not an area of concern” as the reclassification is a purely academic decision based on the curriculum.

“The change in code reflects the process of alignment of the major and the program of study. These changes are made on an academic basis and approved so it is not an area of concern,” he said.

The U.A. resolution called academic departments other than the economics department to consider reclassifying their majors as well. The Sun reached out to the applied economics and management department, which was raised as a potential candidate for reclassification by the resolution. The department did not respond.