More International Students Result in More US Students Graduating With a STEM Major: New Research


Cyril Zachariah
Updated on Jul 15, 2021 01:38 PM IST

New research conducted by the National Foundation for American Policy’s Madeline Zavodny has revealed that the fears over international students taking over seats from US students are irrational. Further, the study revealed that more international students led to more US students graduating in STEM majors.

More International Students Result in More US Students Graduating With a STEM Major: New Research

Revelations from new research shed light on the effects of international students on US students studying in US institutions. As per the research, concerns over international students taking over spots for US Students in US Institutions are misleading. Further, it was witnessed that the enrolment of international students led to an increase in US students choosing STEM courses.

The National Foundation for American Policy study by Madeline Zavodny stated that admitting more international students at an average US Institution, led to an increase of bachelors degree in STEM being awarded to US students.

Zavodny pointed out statistics that each 10 bachelors degree in different disciplines, awarded to international students lead to 15 bachelors degrees in STEM majors being awarded to US students.

The study further revealed that fewer international students within US Higher Education institutions do not result in more seats for US students, the student capacity in most US universities are plenty, further reiterating the point that international students do not take away seats from US students.

As per the study, US universities that are able to attract more international students likely to devote more resources to STEM education, including increasing the number of courses on offer, adding additional STEM fields, recruiting more faculty, building new lab spaces and building. With such extensive changes, Universities tend to become more attractive among US students as well.

Zavodny added that international students tend to major in STEM areas of studies, compared to other areas, thus indicating that international students tend to enrol in majors and classes with international students instead of avoiding them.

Zavodny stated, The positive relationship is after controlling for school fixed effects and linear trends, so regardless of its cause the finding an increase in international students at a school leads to an increase in the number of bachelors degrees in STEM majors awarded to U.S. students is a robust relationship,

The data used in the study was taken from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System under the US Department of Education. The data was used to analyse the US and International undergraduate students enrolled at 1,234 non-profit higher education institutions from the year 1990 to 2018.

Also Read:Best Universities in the USA to Pursue STEM Courses

Among the other revelations from the study include the following:

  • From the data collected between 1990-2018, neither positive nor negative effects were seen with the increase of international undergraduate students on the number of US Students enrolled, on average. This included men, women, non-Hispanic white and black students within the null result overall.

  • No effects have been witnessed of international students in the number of bachelors degree offered to African-American US students, in total and by gender. Further, Bachelors degrees awarded to US students were not affected by the number of international students, within the 1,234 higher education institutions between 1990-2018.

  • The bachelor degree awards conferred to US female students have been found to have increased less when the school increased the number of bachelor degrees awarded to international students. This, however, means that the increase in the number of US female students is comparably smaller than the number of international students receiving the award at a school. This does not mean that the increase of international students at a school results in fewer women receiving the awards.

  • Both men and women were seen shifting into STEM courses from social science majors at the schools with a larger number of international students. The shift can be a result of the universities spending more resources on STEM programmes, thus becoming more attractive for the US and international students as well.

In her statements, Zavodny writes that there are major economic implications of the effects of international students on the US students, as the US students are prompted to pursue STEM courses. It is witnessed that graduates of STEM majors usually earn more than graduates of other disciplines, especially in the beginning. Therefore, the study reveals that US students tend to choose STEM courses at schools where the number of international students is high, thus leading to more US students choosing STEM courses and thus leading to a better economic condition. This finding should be enough reason to make policies that bring more international students to study in the US, she added.

The decline in new international student enrolment numbers in the US in pre-COVID times was seen as a result of the difficulty of working in the US on completion of their programme, especially when compared to Canada. This difficulty came as a result of the US Immigration restrictions, which included the limitations of H-1B policies and the waiting period to attain a permanent residence in the country.

Also Read:All About Pursuing a STEM Degree Abroad: Scope, Advantages, Job Prospects

As per a report from the National Foundation for American Policy analysis, in Canada, the number of international students in Canada jumped 127%, from 76,075 in 2016 to 172,625 in 2018. Additionally, the number of Indians who received permanent residency in Canada in 2016 doubled over from 39,340 to 85,585 in 2019.

Currently, two specific rules published by the Trump Administration in its final weeks have been taken into consideration by the Biden Administration, which could possible discourage international students from studying in the US. The first, a Department of Labour rule that prices International student out of the US labour market. The second, a Department of Homeland Security rule that reduces the likelihood of international students being selected for the H-1B visa on graduation.

The Department of Homeland Security stated that in the 2020 calendar year, US schools saw a sharp decline of 72% in the number of new international student enrolment as compared to the 2019 calendar year.

Zavodny concludes that since a large number of international students are potential STEM professionals, which motivates US students to choose STEM majors and become potential STEM workers, admitting international students to US Universities becomes crucial. She states that an increase in international students should be viewed as good news for both US schools and US Students. The latest reports suggest that the fate of the international students may be affected by the policies in the US.

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