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Sunday, November 28, 2021

Economics major reclassified as STEM degree

Switch will allow international students the option of visa extension

UC Davis has reclassified its undergraduate economics major as a STEM degree, reflecting a trend that brings the university in line with top institutions such as MIT, Columbia and Yale.

The economics degree, though technically still recognized as a Bachelor of Arts, requires students to take courses that test their knowledge of mathematics, data analysis and more. This new classification as a STEM degree is thought to better reflect the content of the major.

Several members of the department view this switch positively, including Dr. Athanasios Geromichalos, an associate professor in the Department of Economics.

“This is very good news for the department and the major,” Geromichalos said via email. “This change reflects the increasingly technical content of our major, which includes required courses in mathematics, statistics, and econometrics and upper-division classes that rely heavily on quantitative skills.”

Another advantage of the change is that it will allow international students the opportunity to obtain a three-year extension of their visas after graduation.

Geromichalos noted that “these students will not only obtain a high quality degree, but also possibly some working experience in the U.S. after graduation.”

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website describes a program called Optional Practical Training (OPT), which allows students with an F-1 visa to be temporarily employed for up to 12 months after graduation. It notes, however, that if students earn a degree in certain STEM fields, they have the potential to qualify for an additional 24-month extension.

Classifying economics as a STEM major will allow international students the opportunity to apply for the additional two years in the United States, as opposed to the standard one year for non-STEM degrees.

As far as the process of reclassification goes, Dr. Giovanni Peri, the Department Chair for the Department of Economics, says it has been smooth thus far.

“We had to essentially show that economics has evolved into a deeply quantitative type of major and discipline,” Peri said. “In fact, we have increased the amount of math and statistics done, and the quantitative classes in economics, such as 100A, 100B, 102 and 140, have become more and more prominent in the major.”

This news, though exciting for the department, may come as frustrating for individuals who are already far along into an alternate STEM major. UC Davis students pursuing a degree in the field of economics have a choice between a Bachelor of Arts in economics or a Bachelor of Science in managerial economics.

Some opt for managerial economics because of the perceived prestige they feel is associated with a B.S. title. Labeling the regular economics major as a STEM degree, however, gives it the weight that many feel a B.S. seems to bear.

“I’m pretty frustrated I guess, because I really wanted to major in economics but wanted to graduate with a B.S.,” said Olivia Jones, a third-year managerial economics major. “I feel like a STEM degree is essentially the same thing, and I definitely wish I knew this was coming for the economics major before I fully committed to managerial economics.”

Although managerial economics is a B.S., it has yet to be recognized by the university as an official STEM degree. After news of the reclassification of economics emerged, many managerial economics students took it upon themselves to express their frustration with a petition titled “Make Managerial Economics major at UC Davis a STEM major!”

The petition’s main argument makes the claim that without a STEM title, international students majoring in managerial economics are not eligible for the additional visa extension, even though the major is technically a B.S. The supporters also assert that the nature of the major is primarily STEM, and thus should be reclassified as such.

The petition was signed by 40 individuals, and the most recent update shows that the plea gained recognition from the department, which is taking the appropriate actions to make the change.

Written by: Claire Dodd — campus@theaggie.org

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