It was shaping up to be a big spring for Rugved Kore. He was finishing up a master’s degree in engineering that had brought him from the suburbs of Mumbai to Pennsylvania, and two companies had just offered him postgraduation positions that would make him eligible for a visa program for graduates of U.S. universities in technical fields. “It was almost too good to be true,” Kore says. “Getting the job offers felt like a dream because we just don’t have these opportunities in India.”
Then the coronavirus pandemic changed everything. Both companies rescinded their offers, and Kore, who graduated from Pennsylvania State University in a virtual ceremony on May 9, could lose his legal status to stay in the U.S. if he can’t find a job by the end of the summer. If he returns home, Kore says, he worries he won’t be able to repay the $66,000 in student debt secured by his family’s house.
More than a million international students attended U.S. universities during the 2018-19 school year, making up 5.5% of students pursuing higher education, according to the U.S. Department of State. More than half of them pursued science, technology, engineering, or math—or STEM—fields. Those graduating this year are seeing their plans upended by shuttered campuses, closed borders, inflexible immigration policies, and an economy that seized up just as they were about to enter the workforce.