Restricting international student participation in the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program would have big consequences for the U.S. economy, according to a study by the Business Roundtable.
The Trump administration’s efforts to place restrictions on international students and the OPT program prompted the Business Roundtable to assess the program’s impact on the U.S. economy. The Business Roundtable—a group of CEOs from leading U.S. companies—promotes business public policy.
The Business Roundtable study modeled a situation in which new immigration policies led to a 35 percent drop in student visas and a 60 percent decline in OPT participation by 2020. This scenario would result in:
- The loss of 443,000 jobs over the next decade, including 255,000 jobs held by U.S.-born workers.
- A 17-cent decline in the average hourly wage by 2028 due to lower productivity gains.
- A quarter of a percentage point decrease in the U.S. gross domestic product by 2028.
Potential Changes to OPT
The Business Roundtable cited Trump administration’s immigration reforms that would likely reduce participation in the program:
- Last fall, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said it will propose setting a maximum stay for students holding an F-1 visa.
- Although ICE stated it will not propose changes to the OPT program this year, it planned two years ago to change the program to “improve protections of U.S. workers who may be negatively impacted by the employment of nonimmigrant students.”
- The administration indicated two years ago it intended to consider restrictions on foreign STEM students from certain countries to ensure that intellectual property is not transferred to competitors outside the U.S.
Challenges for International Students
President Trump’s travel ban and anti-immigrant rhetoric have already deterred student immigration.
International graduate student applications and enrollment declined for the second consecutive year, according to report issued this month by the Council of Graduate Schools. Between Fall 2017 and Fall 2018, international graduate student enrollment feel by 4% and first-time graduate enrollment decreased by 1%.
Additional data also shows that trend. According to the latest figures from the Institute of International Education (IIE), enrollment of international students at U.S. educational institutions dropped to 891,330 in the 2017/18 school year from 903,127 in 2016/17. Although participation in OPT increased to 203,462 in 2017/18 from 175,695 in 2016/17, the year-over-year increase has slowed. The number of participants in OPT increased 16 percent from 2016/17 to 2017/18. However, OPT participation increased 19 percent and 23 percent in the previous two years.
What’s more, one group has been pursuing an end to a portion of the OPT program in federal court.
The Washington Alliance of Technology Workers (WashTech) has spent the past few years pushing for an end to the STEM extension of the OPT program. WashTech, a union representing tech workers, sued the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in U.S. district court. Last year, the court rejected WashTech’s lawsuit, but the group appealed the ruling. A federal appellate court reversed the lower court’s decision on one issue, allowing that portion of the suit to proceed. The case remains ongoing.
The Alcorn Immigration Law assists international students seeking to study and train in the U.S. Reach out to us if we can help.