Aerial photo of the Lawrence campus showing Main Hall in the forefront.
Lawrence President Mark Burstein: “The protection of OPT is vital for our international students, for our campus, and for all institutions of higher learning that embrace and nurture global education.”

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Today, Lawrence University joins more than 100 public and private universities and colleges in filing an amicus brief in support of a longstanding U.S. immigration program that assists international students in getting practical training with U.S. employers.

The “friend of the court” brief is supportive in the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers Union vs. U.S. Department of Homeland Security (Washtech) litigation in district court to defend the immigration program known as Optional Practical Training and its more recent expansion, STEM OPT (collectively “OPT”).

“OPT has long been a critical program for students from abroad, and Lawrence stands strongly in support of the program and our students,” Lawrence President Mark Burstein said. “International students make up an important part of the Lawrence community. Any rollback of the OPT program will greatly impact these bright and engaged students’ ability to obtain a full educational experience and for this state and for our country to benefit from their talent and energy. The protection of OPT is vital for our international students, for our campus, and for all institutions of higher learning that embrace and nurture global education.”

OPT permits international students studying at colleges and universities in the United States on F-1 status to pursue practical training with a U.S. employer in a position directly related to their course of study for a set period of time following graduation.

“Experiential learning, such as OPT, is now and has long been a crucial component of education in this country,” said Miriam Feldblum, co-founder and executive director of the Presidents’ Alliance of Higher Education and Immigration, which drafted the brief. “The brief and its diverse, wide-ranging list of supporters, representing all sectors of higher education, demonstrate how colleges, universities, and the economy benefit tremendously from OPT. Any rollback of OPT will severely harm international students, the future of American higher education, and economic growth.”

Hundreds of thousands of international students and graduates participate in OPT across the nation each year, with more than 325,000 participating in 2017 (the most recent year statistics are available) and 1.5 million participating between 2004 and 2016.

As the amicus brief states, this is a longstanding government program that permits international students to continue, and deepen, their education by applying the skills and knowledge they learn in the classroom to a professional setting. OPT provides untold benefits for these international students. But, just as critical, being able to provide international students with the opportunities facilitated by OPT gives American institutions of higher education an edge in an increasingly competitive global education market.

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu