Here’s a question for all MBA applicants: what do you do if the product you are selling suddenly becomes significantly less appealing to your international markets? Evolving conditions have made your customers doubt your product is worth as much as you are charging, and fewer potential customers are taking the risk on your product. The answer that the top MBA programs identified: Reduce the risk and make the product more cost-effective!
I am speaking, of course, of the increasing number of American MBA programs that have earned STEM certification. As work visas to stay in the U.S. after business school and earn the salaries that international students need to pay off their student loans became harder to come by, international applications decreased. In fact, 48% of U.S. MBA programs reported a decline in international applications for their 2019 entering classes; 23% of U.S. MBA programs reported a significant decline (a 21% or more drop in international applications)!
To alleviate the uncertainty in the visa process, the American MBA programs have found a strategic differentiator: STEM certification. Graduates of certified science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) degree programs qualify for STEM OPT (Optional Practical Training), a 24-month extension of a student’s F-1 visa to apply the skills they learned in their STEM degree studies in full-time employment in the U.S.
However, COVID and the related sudden spike in U.S. unemployment, caused the federal government to question whether it wants the OPT program along with other work visas for non-U.S. residents. U.S. President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order on June 22, 2020 suspending most foreign workers’ visas through the end of 2020. While the OPT program will continue, the Order affects people holding H-1B visas which allow highly-skilled, non-immigrant workers to remain temporarily in the U.S.
Any suspension of the H-1B program is likely to have a negative effect on all higher education. The visa allows foreign students to temporarily work in the U.S. during or soon after graduating from a U.S. college or university. Approximately 85,000 foreign students take advantage of the program every year. It does not appear that the new Executive Order will affect H-1B holders who are already in the U.S., and again, it does not affect the OPT program.
While some MBA programs – such as Chicago Booth, Wharton, Virginia Darden – now offer specific concentrations that qualify international students for STEM OPT, others – such as Berkeley Haas, Carnegie Mellon Tepper, and Rochester Simon – qualify MBA graduates of all majors in their MBA programs for this extension.
STEM MBA Programs
We’re going to do our best to keep this table current. However, please do not rely on this table; confirm the STEM designation yourself to make sure that the MBA programs you apply to really have that designation. And if you find out a school has attained STEM certification and is not on the list, please let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like to learn how to get into top MBA programs that offer STEM OPT eligibility and are a good fit for you, register for a free consultation with me.
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