Dear Presidents' Alliance Members,
From time to time, we forward invitations from other groups to our members. Today, we are forwarding to a select number of our members an invitation from the Niskanen Center together with a preview of their upcoming report, Optional Practical Training (OPT) and International Students after Graduation .

The report: Due to come out later this week, the report is a well done, succinct analysis of the educational characteristics, geographic trends and economic contributions of OPT participants from 2004 to 2017. The findings underscore the economic value of the OPT program for local and state economies. The report also considers several useful policy recommendations to facilitate the ability of international students to stay and work in the U.S. after graduation. (see highlights below).

The ask: The Niskanen Center is looking for a campus official who would like to join them as a speaker on the importance of OPT for international students and college campuses for a congressional briefing on the new report to take place in D.C. in mid-April, and we thought your campus might be interested in the opportunity (see the full invitation below).

The Niskanen Center is a respected moderate-libertarian think tank. We are happy to address any questions you may have if you want to learn more before following up with them.


Miriam Feldblum
Presidents' Alliance Team
Special Invitation from the Niskanen Center
Speaking at a Hill Briefing on OPT
Please join the Niskanen Center for a special briefing on Capitol Hill this April to examine the impact of foreign students on campus and within the local and national economy. The working title is "Recruiting, Retaining, & Capitalizing on Foreign Students at U.S. Universities" and will probe themes of innovation, entrepreneurship, economic growth, and competitiveness.

The event will feature opening remarks from a Republican member of Congress speaking to the immense value of immigrant students in their state/district and the U.S. more widely. A panel discussion will follow featuring Niskanen's staff economist, a representative from an industry that recruits international talent, and an expert on foreign student policy and trends. We are aiming for the second or third week in April. 

We plan to conclude the event with a short keynote address from a senior university official speaking to the power of foreign students on their campus. We are seeking an official from a university to highlight that foreign students contribute across our country and not just in big cities or on the coasts.

Participating in the event is a great way to highlight the specific university and the impressive international students that call it home. We would also like to set up meetings with university representatives and their home state lawmakers before or after the event to continue the conversation. 

If interested in the opportunity to participate please reach out to Matthew La Corte at the Niskanen Center ( ) for more details. 
Highlights from " Optional Practical Training (OPT) and International Students after Graduation" (Click here to download a preview copy of the research paper)
Economic benefits of the OPT program
“The report finds higher levels of OPT participants in a region lead to increased innovation in that region, as measured by the number of patents, higher average earnings, especially among the higher skilled, and no evidence of adverse effects on unemployment or labor force participation.” (Executive Summary)
Growth and changing characteristics of OPT participants, 2004-2017
"While the majority of OPT participants have always been graduates with master’s degrees, the proportion of OPT participants who graduated with a master’s degree grew from about 53 percent in 2004 to over 70 percent in 2017; " and the number of OPT participants with just a bachelor’s degree fell from 30% to 17%. However, it is important to remember that the total number of OPT participants increased dramatically over this time period, from over 77,000 in 2004 to nearly 250,000 in 2017. (p. 3)
Top academic fields, 2004-2017
Top fields include computer science, business administration, electrical engineering, computer and information sciences, and mechanical engineering, with the trend towards STEM majors, and away from business. (p. 4)
Top destinations
"California, New York, and Texas lead with the greatest numbers of OPT participants. However, smaller states like Delaware, New Jersey, and Massachusetts (as well as Washington, D.C.), where about one in 300 workers is an active OPT participant, have the most OPT participants as a proportion of their respective populations. Meanwhile, Michigan, Washington, Georgia, Arkansas, and Iowa have seen the most growth in their levels of OPT participants." (p. 4)
Policy recommendations
The report concludes with a number of policy considerations to codify and maintain the OPT program and support the ability of OPT participants to stay and work in the U.S.

  • Authorize “international students to declare dual intent on F-1 visas if they participate in OPT—that is, intent to transition from their temporary non-immigrant visas to immigrant visas." Currently, international students cannot do so.
  • Facilitate H-1B acquisition for OPT participants, and the report suggests, “exempting all OPT participants who meet basic requirements from the H-1B numerical limitation, just as the employees of universities and similar institutions are exempted now.”
  • Finally, the report notes approvingly the legislative proposal “to authorize permanent residence for all those who graduated from a U.S. institution of higher education subject to degree or subject requirements.” (p.6)