In the face of overwhelming pressure, the government has backed down and agreed to rescind new rules promulgated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on July 6, 2020. The administration had thrown a monkey wrench into college reopening plans by saying that ICE would no longer permit international students to remain in the U.S. if their course load for the fall was fully online.
Universities across the country have been grappling with the complicated issue of whether and how to reopen school safely in the fall. Schools have spent countless hours fashioning reopening plans with many considering fully online learning but most favoring some type of hybrid model that allows some online and some in-person learning.
The proposed new ICE rules would have disallowed the U.S. Department of State from issuing visas for students abroad who had planned to attend a school in the fall that is utilizing a fully online model. And, students already enrolled in those schools would have been forced to transfer to a school with in-person learning or to leave the country, some to war-torn homes or countries with poor internet access.
Spearheaded by Harvard and MIT more than 200 colleges and universities joined a suit in a Boston court asking for the rule to be blocked. The schools argued that the new rules would jeopardize “students’ safety and forces schools to reconsider fall plans they have spent months preparing.” If the directive had been allowed to stand colleges would have suffered a huge financial hit losing millions since international students typically pay the highest tuition rates.
So at least for now, international students and universities can breathe again.