Two weeks after backing away from a controversial Immigration and Customs Enforcement policy to deny student visas to international students attending American schools that planned to only offer remote learning this fall, the federal government has changed the rules again.
This time, ICE clarified the policy is limited to first-year international students, who will not be allowed to enter the country if their American school is only offering remote learning. International students who were previously enrolled in spring semester classes in American schools will not be affected. The new policy also will not impact international students if their American schools pivot from in-person or hybrid instruction models to all-remote learning later in the year, according to the Wall Street Journal.
New York City's three biggest universities have not officially asked their international students to stay home. CUNY schools plan to offer some version of in-person learning this year, while NYU and Columbia University officials have announced some form of hybrid learning and staggered in-person instruction this fall.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security had backed away from the previous policy after scores of universities and states sued the federal government. The aim of the policy had been to encourage U.S. schools to reopen campuses, federal officials said.
USA Today said a drop in enrollment by international students was already expected ”because of delays tied to embassy and consulate closures due to the pandemic,” according to Terry Hartle, a senior vice president with the American Council on Education.
And some schools have been telling their international students to stay home anyways: “the University of Southern California recommended newly admitted international students stay home and complete their coursework online,” NPR reported, and Harvard University officials told their international freshmen that the political and public health situation in America was too precarious for them to come to campus in the fall.
A report by the non-partisan research firm National Foundation for American Policy released July 13th said that “the enrollment of new international students at U.S. universities in the Fall 2020-21 academic year is projected to decline 63% to 98% from the 2018-19 level.”