STEM: Science, Technology, Economics and Mathematics

It’s official: UCLA has reclassified the Economics major as a STEM subject. Overall, this seems like good news, but there are a few factors that stand to cause problems for former graduates and future applicants.

So far there has been significant criticism about the change, made in response to the increased complexity of the major’s coursework. While it is true that the study of Economics also involves the study of the society in which the economy operates, this does not invalidate the technical knowledge required to succeed in the field. By its very nature, the major straddles the line between STEM and humanities – the only thing that has changed is which aspect the University prioritizes. 

This change has the potential to greatly benefit the increasing number of international students. The major’s recent reclassification allows graduates from abroad to work in the U.S. for three years on their student visa instead of just one. This provides them with more job experience and improved career prospects in their home countries. 

However, the major’s reclassification does not apply retroactively; international students who have already graduated with an Econ degree will not see their visas extended. As a result, these alumni will have less time to gain work experience in the US, which could have severe career ramifications if they are placed in direct competition with the new, more qualified STEM-Econ majors. 

The change may also attract more international students and make it harder for domestic students to be admitted. UCLA is already the most applied-to university in the country, and only has a 12 percent acceptance rate. The reclassification of the Econ major could flood the system with international students, making admission even more competitive. 

Ultimately, the major’s reclassification seems like a big win for international students, but only time will tell if the anticipated benefits come to fruition. Until new graduates with the extended three-year visa begin entering the workforce, it will remain unclear which, if any, positive results come to be.

By: Allison Malone
Class of 2020

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