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CIP Code Considerations for F-1 International Students and STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT)

The United States government has designated certain science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines as eligible for special consideration in determining visa status for F-1 international students and applicants for STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT). Programs are identified based on federal Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) codes developed by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). The list of eligible CIP codes is published by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

CIP codes at UMass Amherst are assigned by the Office of Institutional Research, consistent with guidance from NCES.

  1. Each program is assigned the single CIP code that best represents the focus and content of the program. When a program has characteristics of more than one CIP classification, OIR will work with the department to to determine the CIP code that most closely matches the program’s focus and content.
  2. CIP codes are assigned to programs, not individuals. All students enrolled in or holding degrees from a given program are identified by the same CIP code, regardless of their individual course selections, thesis or dissertation foci, etc.
  3. CIP codes are generally applied at the degree program (i.e. SPIRE plan) level. In some exceptional cases approved sub-plans may have a different CIP code.

CIP codes have many uses. As described by the NCES:

The CIP is the accepted federal government statistical standard on instructional program classifications and is used in a variety of education information surveys and databases. Since it was first published in 1980, the CIP has been used by NCES in the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), … other Department of Education offices, such as the Office for Civil Rights, the Office of Vocational and Adult Education, and the Office of Special Education, and serves as the standard on instructional programs for other federal agencies, including the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Commerce (Bureau of the Census), the Department of Labor (Bureau of Labor Statistics) , and others. The CIP is used by state agencies, national associations, academic institutions, and employment counseling services for collecting, reporting, and analyzing instructional program data.

Given this wide range of uses, it is important that CIP codes reflect the best overall description of a program, not tailored to any specific use or application.

Reviewing CIP codes

CIP codes can be reviewed to ensure their accuracy and currency. A request for review should be sent by the department head or chair to OIR, which will consult with the Registrar’s Office, the Graduate School and others as needed. The request should describe the rationale for change (change in program requirements, change in CIP definitions, or why a different CIP would more closely reflect program focus and content).

Reviews may be requested at any time, but any CIP code changes are made annually during the summer. Changes will require the approval of the school/college Dean.

Individuals seeking to reflect a revised CIP code on an I-20 form should refer to the information sheet on this subject available on the International Programs Office website.