Donald W. Reynolds National Center For Business Journalism

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What to know when covering international graduates

May 24, 2018

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The number of foreign graduates staying and working after graduation is increasing. (Photo credit: Pixabay user image Chantellen)

It’s the height of college graduation season nationwide, and what follows for these soon-to-be graduates is finding a job. But for international students, looking for a job is a bit different. International graduates have to decide whether to stay in the U.S. to look for a job or head back home.

About 1.5 million foreign college graduates in the U.S. have been allowed to stay and work after graduation, according to an analysis from the Pew Research Center. The same report states the number of students with STEM degrees authorized to work in the U.S. has increased by 400 percent since 2008. India, China and South Korea make up more than half of these graduates.

The increase in foreign college graduates staying and working in the U.S. indicates a need for innovation and growth. These numbers are only part of an ever changing landscape in America’s college campuses.

As more international graduates with degrees in STEM related fields leave college towns and take their skills to bigger metros such as San Francisco and Boston, the loss of these talented graduates can leave a dent in local economies. Nearly a million international students are studying in the U.S., and as more of these students graduate from American universities a host of stories are awaiting to be covered.

Job programs helping foreign graduates

The Optional Practical Training program, or OPT, is a federal program that gives foreign graduates authorization to work and remain in the U.S after graduation. The Pew Research Center found approvals for OPT outpace H-1B visa approvals in recent years. The majority of OPT participants graduated with a STEM degree in the U.S. This opens the door for young entrepreneurs moving into a robust U.S. economy. Some universities such as the University of Massachusetts are implementing a global entrepreneur-in-residence program, or EIR, which allows foreign graduates to stay in the U.S. and gives them resources to incubate their own ideas while serving as part-time mentors for the university. Find out what your local university is doing to foster talent from international students.

States offering incentives to workers

College graduates are more likely to move to big cities that offer better career opportunities. With tech and business hubs attracting young talent, this leaves many small towns across the U.S. with job shortages. In Grant County, Ind., people who choose to relocate there will receive a $5,000 toward buying a home. The employment rate in small towns and mid-size towns is decreasing, which is important to watch out for because of the economic disparity from big metros to small towns across America. What is your local town or city doing to retain workers?  

How international college students help with tuition

The Institute of International Education found enrollment for international students was lower than previous years. Public universities who rely on international students can take a hit from this decline because international students help finance the cost of public universities and domestic students. Not only do they help pay the bill for college, international students play an important role in the tech industry. With more than 53 percent of foreign graduates specialized in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, the U.S. can gain from top talent among international students to be competitive with other countries. How is your local state budgets impacting international college students?

Reporter takeaways

  • More than half of foreign college graduates authorized to work are going into STEM related fields. Are there certain job programs your local university offers to retain young entrepreneurs?
  • Investigate what your local town or city is doing to retain young talent, whether it is through incentives such as credits toward buying a house or paying off student loans.
  • How is your state dealing with international student tuition? Figure out how rising tuition costs will impact the enrollment of international students.

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