Optional practical training: Students eyeing US dream worried over new order

Written by Alifiya Khan | Pune | Published:February 1, 2017 9:31 am
India has probably the second largest student community in the US for STEM courses and this decision will definitely have a very serious impact. (Source: Thinkstock)

IT IS not just working professionals but even foreign students aspiring to go to the United States of America for further studies who are worried about their future prospects in view of the recent visa changes proposed by the Trump administration. According to news reports, as part of Trump’s broader policy on immigration, reducing the length of post-study work visa is under serious consideration. While the previous Obama administration had looked at increasing the optional practical training (OPT) extensions allowing graduates from science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) courses to stay on up to three years post study, the Trump-administration is looking at revoking the decision. Some reports say that the current government may do away with the OPT altogether, a move which has not gone down well with the academic community.

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“India has probably the second largest student community in the US for STEM courses and this decision will definitely have a very serious impact. Every year, I refer at least 40-50 students for technology courses alone and I know for a fact that these students are worried about the possibility of the OPT extensions going away. I have worked in the US too and getting the first job is a daunting task. Generally, a student takes OPT extension after graduation and towards the end of it, they get the actual job. It takes time to prove one’s capability to the company or find a suitable job. Studying in the US is expensive and students need that buffer time to find a well paying job. I think the ones who are in real trouble right now are those students who enrolled in the fall of 2015 and have barely 3-4months to graduate,” said Dr Aditya Abhyankar, dean of faculty of technology, Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU).

In fact, college representatives say they would start warning students about the risks involved in taking up a course of study, given the course expenses and pay back period.

“Studying in the US is an expensive proposition and most students heading abroad want to stay back and work for at least sometime. If there is uncertainty on that front, what happened in the UK will hold true for the US. The fall semester in the US will begin from September 2017 and students must decide and make initial payments by April. We will ask our students to hedge their risks and keep options open for other countries,” said Sandeep Meshram, assistant professor in geology and Corporate Relations officer, College of Engineering, Pune.

Students agree that it is a worrying factor. Sayali Naikdhure, who has applied in eight universities in the US, said she would be taking a student loan of nearly Rs 30 lakh for her MS degree in structural engineering.

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