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Beginning with the Class of 2023, Hamilton students who graduate with a concentration in economics will be classified as STEM majors, a move that will enhance the college experience and post-graduate opportunities for international students.

International students with F-1 visas who are economics concentrators will now be eligible for up to three years of Optional Practical Training (OPT) to be employed in the U.S. in a related career field after graduation. Historically, some companies and organizations in the U.S. haven’t considered international students for employment because of the one-year limit on OPT for those who pursue non-STEM degree programs.

The change in classification, which does not affect the curriculum or change a student’s concentration requirements, will also give Hamilton’s international students more time to pursue related advanced degree programs and obtain an H-1B skilled worker visa.

“This new classification removes barriers for our international students,” said Chair and Professor of Economics Ann Owen. “In the past, our department and International Student Services have worked together with many international students on their applications to stay and work in the U.S. in order for them to pursue opportunities they may not have back home. The reclassification makes this an automatic process instead of a manual one.”

Assistant Dean for Accessibility Resources Allen Harrison, who oversaw International Student Services for the last 15 years, worked with numerous students who needed guidance on navigating the process.

“Having this in place will make it so much easier for international students going forward,” Harrison said. “They will have more flexibility when it comes to what they do after Hamilton, and it’s one less thing for them to worry about. I think that's the key outcome.”

The U.S. Department of Education (DOE) groups majors within a Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) code. The CIP code that corresponds to the economics major has a STEM designation for Econometrics and Quantitative Economics, “a program that focuses on the systematic study of mathematical and statistical analysis of economic phenomena and problems.” This includes instruction in economic statistics, optimization theory, cost/benefit analysis, price theory, economic modeling, and economic forecasting and evaluation.

In recent years, Hamilton’s Economics Department has undergone a curricular reform that increased the amount of econometrics in the courses required for majors. It was designed to broaden students’ perceptions of the issues that economists study and what economics prepares students to do after college, and teach students the introductory statistics they need to use sophisticated data science as they progress through the major.

“These curricular efforts, coupled with the new classification, will help ensure that our department educates a more diverse group of graduates and adds new and important voices and perspectives to the world of economics,” Owen said. “Our department has prioritized creating a diverse and inclusive academic experience for Hamilton students, and the STEM classification is one small part of that work.”

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