The Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) is the taxonomic coding scheme used for instructional programs in higher education in the United States. Its purpose is to facilitate the organization, collection, and reporting of fields of study and program completions.
Programs should choose the code that most accurately reflects content of their program as it relates to federal reporting and university funding. Any CIP changes must be submitted through Curriculum Inventory Management (CIM) system and follow the CIP Code Assignment Policy and process. Rationale for why the specific code is most appropriate should be included in the proposal.
Program CIP code decisions have significant implications for international students studying in the USA on an F-1 student visa. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has published a list of CIP codes (below) designated as STEM. Students on F-1 visas who complete a degree program within one of the DHS STEM-designated CIP codes are eligible to apply for a so-called post-completion OPT STEM Extension. Regular post-completion OPT, for which all F-1 students are eligible, grants the visa holder a year of work authorization following their graduation. STEM students are eligible to apply for an additional 24-month extension to their OPT work authorization.
If the University changes a program’s CIP code from a STEM-designated code to one that is not, then current F-1 students will lose their eligibility to apply for the OPT STEM Extension after graduation. OPT STEM eligibility is a major factor that international students consider in joining a particular University and in choosing their field of study.
OPT and STEM Extension applications are adjudicated by USCIS. Students applying for a STEM extension often receive a request for evidence (RFE). RFEs often require students to provide evidence proving that their degree was in fact in a DHS-designated STEM field.
DHS has published their list of STEM-eligible CIP codes on two occasions (2012 and 2016). There is currently no established timeline, and we do not know when DHS may revise their list of STEM-eligible CIP codes.