New Report – The Essential Role of Practical Training in U.S. Higher Education and the Innovation Economy

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By Shorelight Team
Last updated on May 9, 2024

Get the latest insights from Shorelight, Whiteboard Advisors, and the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration.

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MAY 2024 UPDATE: We are thrilled to share that the report now includes a new foreword from Dane Linn, vice president for corporate initiatives at the Business Roundtable, who makes the case for why OPT is so vital for continued innovation and economic growth in the US. You can read his foreword in the full report, available below.

Shorelight, in partnership with the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration and Whiteboard Advisors, released a new report – The Essential Role of Practical Training in U.S. Higher Education and the Innovation Economy. This data snapshot shares results and analysis of survey data from over 1,200 international students, international alumni, and prospective international students to assess the importance of optional practical training (OPT).

Key survey findings include:

  • 43% of respondents either would not or were not sure that they would choose the United States as their destination to learn and work if OPT was not available;

  • Over 80% of respondents said the ability to participate in OPT influenced their decision to come to the United States; and,

  • While safety and longer-term career opportunities remain the two most important factors for international students, the ability to work in the US immediately after graduation ranks a close third.

International students studying in the US account for over $40 billion in economic contributions annually, and supported 370,000 jobs in the 2022-23 school year. Highly-skilled international student graduates play a vital role in powering the innovation and advancement that is foundational to US economic strength, workforce well-being, and international leadership.

Attracting and retaining the best and brightest talent coming out of US colleges and universities is critical to building an innovative and globally competitive US economy” - Dane Linn, Senior Vice President, Business Roundtable

Among survey respondents:

  • Over 72% of the surveyed students were studying or had studied a STEM field.

  • Between 2016 and 2018, students from India attending universities in Canada increased by more than 100%. In that same period, Indian students in graduate level engineering and computer science programs in the US declined by 25%.

Amid increasing global competition, the US can no longer afford to take for granted its position as the most desirable destination for international students. Countries around the world are improving their immigration and labor force policies to increase their recruitment of talented international students - benefiting from their economic value and STEM talent – while the US has lost almost 20% in market share over the past 22 years.

Losing international students will threaten our economy, talent pipeline, and global competitiveness. International students already face barriers to studying in the US – including a complex, uncertain immigration system – so it’s more important than ever to strengthen and make OPT permanent. Congress must pass legislation to protect this program and make it a reliable part of the American higher educational experience or risk falling behind other talent-seeking nations.

Download the full report: