Understanding the motivating factors and collegiate experiences of international non-stem students




Salunke, Vedika S.
Bazner, Kevin J.


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The scale of movement of international students has increased dramatically since the 1950s, with the U.S. acting as a major destination owing to a good education system and generous funding of graduate studies (Alberts & Hazen, 2005). International students are not only a valuable financial asset to the host country, but they also enrich these host countries by their cultural and diverse backgrounds. International students also offer skilled, intellectual labor to the workforce with a wide range of knowledge across disciplines. According to Adhikari (2017), the number of international students in the United States is helping fill that demand but there is likely to be a push for more domestic students to enter the STEM field. There is also likely to be a shift in the reasons of students pursuing STEM fields because of the push to engage students in STEM fields earlier in their academic careers. This increase has led to more focus by researchers and institutions on STEM students, leaving out non-STEM students and their needs, experiences, and challenges. The purpose of this study is to understand the motivating factors and campus experiences of international students enrolled in non-STEM degree programs. Based on data collected from six participants in semi-structured interviews, the study explores: (1) Motivations of international students to enroll in a non-STEM program; (2) Their understanding of the OPT policies for STEM and non-STEM degree programs; (3) Academic challenges and college experiences of international non-STEM students. Limited support from recruiting agencies in the university’s application process, unawareness of STEM/ non-STEM differentiation and OPT policies, limited funding opportunities were the key findings of this study. Implications for this research will aid institutional leaders in better understanding the campus experiences of non-STEM international students and provide opportunities for improvements to student recruitment, campus programming, and academic support initiatives.



international students, non-stem degree programs, college experiences, enrollment, opt policies



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