March 11, 2015Published Article

How Obama's Immigration Actions Impact Higher Education


In late November 2014, President Obama announced a series of immigration-related initiatives. Although only one of the president’s actions dealt directly with higher education, it is likely that several other components of the initiative will affect institutions of higher education. A Texas Federal District Court has imposed an injunction on the expansion of the deportation practices and deferred action component of the president’s initiatives. We discuss that action below.

Optional Practical Training

The direct reference to higher education in the president’s immigration initiative is the proposal to lengthen the period of "optional practical training" (OPT) employment authorization after an individual holding a student visa graduates from a U.S. college or university with a degree in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. In addition, the president instructed that a change be made to expand the degree programs eligible for STEM treatment and ominously noted that the enforcement agencies should require “stronger ties to degree-granting institutions, which would better ensure that a student’s practical training furthers the student’s full course of study in the United States.”

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