UPenn decides to reclassify economics major as STEM


The University of Pennsylvania (UPenn), has finally decided to reclassify its economics major as a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) major in spring 2021.

This move will enable international economics graduates to apply for an additional two years under the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program, increasing their chances of obtaining a subsequent non-immigrant H-1B skilled worker visa.

Chair Francis Diebold, Economics Department Undergraduate, made this announcement through email, notifying that, “Many of the standard Penn job opportunities are things like two or three-year training program or analyst positions, which require upfront a multi-year commitment,” Diebold says. He adds that the visa extension for STEM graduates would allow international graduates to become more competitive and flexible.

UPenn will carry out this reclassification under the new STEM federal Classification of Instructional Program code. It reflects the economics program’s increased emphasis on statistical and mathematical methods, which include two semesters of calculus, one semester of statistics, and one semester of econometrics.

International students who wanted to major in economics but still qualify for the three-year OPT were previously advised to study Mathematical Economics instead, as it had already been recognized as a STEM program.

The Economics Department is located in the UPenn’s School of Arts and Sciences, which is among the top ten in the US. It is also among the most popular undergraduate program at the university. Prior to this, UPenn reclassified Business Economics and Public Policy, Behavioral Economics, and Mathematical Economics as STEM majors.

“Econ is, in my opinion, as rigorous as those, and it didn’t make sense not to make it a STEM major,” opines Economics Senior Lecturer and Director of Macroeconomic Principles Luca Bossi.

The Daily Pennsylvanian also reports that UPenn is the last Ivy League institution to classify economics under STEM. The news was welcomed by professors and international students, particularly those who have had to shelve their plan to major in economics so they would qualify for a STEM OPT.