International students hit hard by the pandemic

International students hit hard by the pandemic

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How Columbia, Harvard are trying to keep their students in the U.S. this fall with classes operating solely online.

By: Rebecca Anderson

The coronavirus pandemic is truly a global crisis, especially for international students trying to remain in the U.S. this fall.

Confirmed in early July, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said its granting of visa flexibility to students outside the country applies to only those who were actively enrolled in American schools on March 9 of this year.

“Nonimmigrant students in new or initial status after March 9 will not be able to enter the U.S. to enroll in a U.S. school as a nonimmigrant student for the fall term to pursue a full course of study that is 100 percent online,” the agency said in a statement to CNN.

The agency also told universities not to issue a Form I-20—a certificate of eligibility—to an international student who is outside the U.S. and plans to take classes fully online. With a majority of schools across the country operating mostly through Zoom and additional online platforms, this poses an ironic issue.

After hearing the news, universities acted quickly.

According to Forbes, Harvard, Columbia, Brown, Stanford, NYU and the University of Pennsylvania are just some of the schools reassuring students with the announcement and taking action.

In the words of Harvard President Lawrence S. Bacow, they will work with other institutions to chart a path forward to ensure students “can continue their studies without fear of being forced to leave the country mid-way through the year.”

In a FAQ document last updated on July 15, ICE said that newly enrolled international students who are already in the U.S. can stay in the country. It also suggests deferment as an alternative for new students whose institutions are modifying operations because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Columbia University and its staff members have taken measures to ensure that students won’t be affected by ICE orders this school year.

A few weeks after an outcry from different academic communities, U.S. District Judge Allison D. Burroughs in Boston announced that the Trump administration had agreed to rescind the policy that prevented international students from maintaining F-1 and M-1 student visas if they were enrolled in an online-only course of study this fall.

According to the Columbia University Office of University Life, the decision settles a lawsuit filed by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology over the restrictions. The announcement also claims that Columbia University had filed an amicus brief in support of Harvard and MIT’s legal challenge earlier on.

With this announcement, comes much uncertainty for incoming international students planning to apply to U.S. colleges.

In a statement provided to U.S. News & World Report, Tim Brunold, dean of admission at the University of Southern California, said the university is working to help freshman. “We’re keeping a very close eye on the situation and are committed to being sensitive to interruptions or complications caused by the spread of the novel coronavirus.”

Later in the article it states that admissions tests are another area of concern for prospective international students. “More than 15 countries have canceled the administration of the SAT exam scheduled for last March due to the coronavirus, according to the College Board. Mainland China, for example, has canceled entry exams like the SAT and GRE and English proficiency tests like the TOEFL and IELTS, which are typically required for international students to study at U.S. universities.”

Although the government policy in the U.S. was eventually overruled, there are still many uphill battles professionals in academia will have to face going forward. With less students on campus, this could potentially mean less staff, more furloughs, and less money coming in for on-campus housing and services.

“Thanks to overwhelming opposition from across higher education and beyond, hundreds of thousands of international students have been spared the potentially devastating consequences of this ill-conceived government policy,” said Columbia President Lee C. Bollinger. “The outcome in court today can be attributed to the nationwide outcry over a policy at odds with basic American values and basic tenets of public health. This victory should serve as a reminder of the need to loudly and swiftly oppose departures from America’s heritage of embracing the world.”

As an Operations Analyst at Park Evaluations, Rebecca Anderson works with the proofing team to review evaluation letters for candidates looking to attain their visa of choice. When not at the office, Rebecca devotes time to curating news and kickboxing.