Degree Name

MA in International Education

First Advisor

Karla Giuliano Sarr


In 2015, Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) reported that over 1,054,000 international students were studying in the United States in F-1 student status (SEVP, 2015). F-1 status comes with many regulations and benefits, such as Optional Practical Training (OPT), which allows students with F-1 status to work after they complete a degree from an American higher education institution. Students in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields are allowed an additional 24-months of OPT, called STEM OPT. While this is a benefit in many senses, it is accompanied by a lot of responsibility for the student, the university and the U.S. government. Furthermore, in 2014, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was sued by Washington Alliance of Technology (WashTech) workers due to allegations that STEM OPT reportedly takes jobs from U.S. workers. This lawsuit was the beginning of many changes to STEM OPT. This capstone project provides an overview of the immigration regulations for STEM OPT and performs a policy analysis of the changes that ensued after the final ruling in the WashTech vs. DHS lawsuit. Using qualitative research methods, including evaluation techniques, provided a framework for gathering data, analyzing and discussing the regulations, implementation and impact of the changes. This capstone uses in-depth interviews and follow-up meetings with Arkansas’ International Students and Scholars (ISS) Compliance Staff to understand the regulations and their impact at the institutional level, analyze the effects of the resulting regulatory changes, and develop institutional policies for STEM OPT at the University of Arkansas, which is the practicum site for this project. ISS Compliance Staff are currently still in the process of updating our procedures in order to smoothly transition. The findings from interviews and the policy analysis show that different stakeholders will likely view the new STEM OPT rule differently. Findings demonstrate that overall, the University of Arkansas ISS Compliance Staff thought that these changes would be beneficial to students but could negatively affect ISS and employers.

Keywords: immigration, optional practical training, international students, F-1 status, STEM


Educational Administration and Supervision | Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | Education Policy | Immigration Law | International and Comparative Education | Other Educational Administration and Supervision | Policy Design, Analysis, and Evaluation


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