Economics major is reclassified as STEM

By NICOLE POLLACK

Middlebury now recognizes the economics major as a STEM program, following an internal review of the major’s requirements and the growing importance of quantitative reasoning within the department. The decision went into effect retroactively, beginning in the 2018-2019 academic year.

An email explaining the changes, sent to all economics majors in December, said that the new classification better represents the department’s “evolving curriculum, its increasingly quantitative coursework, and the purpose of the economics major.”

The shift will impact the F-1 visas held by many international students. F-1 students majoring in economics will now be eligible for the 24-month STEM-OPT Extension, which prolongs the standard 12-month stay available to all F-1 students after graduation. The additional year allows students on an F-1 visa more time to find an employer that will sponsor their continued stay.

The college formerly categorized the major under the Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) code as “Economics, general.” It will now be listed as “Econometrics and Quantitative Economics,” which qualifies as STEM due to its greater emphasis on mathematical and statistical analysis.

“Nearly all of our classes incorporate quantitative-type analysis,” said John Maluccio, chair of the economics department, “so it’s a better description of what we’re doing in the department.”

Student inquiries about the nature of the major last year led the Economics faculty to explore economics programs at peer institutions, many of which are considered STEM and have comparable curriculum to the courses taught at Middlebury. The department voted unanimously to change the CIP code for the major, a decision then approved by the college.

Maluccio emphasized that the economics department has not seen dramatic changes to its course offerings in recent years. “This is not about changing who might be taking economics,” he said. “It’s much more about—okay, you’re in the major, these are the things we’re doing, let’s give it a more appropriate label within the Department of Education.” He does not expect the change to impact enrollment in the major.