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Undergraduate Education

Trump administration reverses move to send international students home

Students from abroad will be able to take classes online only

by Jyllian Kemsley
July 15, 2020 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 98, ISSUE 28

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has rescinded a policy that required international students to take at least some of their classes in person or leave the country.

The US normally limits how many online or distance education credits count for full-time enrollment of students from abroad. In March, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, ICE lifted those limits.

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Schools had expected that ICE would continue allowing online-only classes into the fall. But ICE announced on July 6 that it was reinstating the limits, and any students in the country enrolled in online-only programs would have to leave or transfer to another school.

Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology sued ICE and its parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security, on July 8. “By threatening to force many [international] students to withdraw from Harvard and MIT, Defendants have put both schools to an impossible choice: lose numerous students who bring immense benefits to the school or take steps to retain those students through in-person classes, even when those steps contradict each school’s judgment about how best to protect the health of the students, faculty, staff, and the entire university community,” the schools’ complaint said. Nearly 50 schools, tech companies, and other organizations filed briefs supporting the suit.

At a July 14 hearing before the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts, “The Court was informed by the parties that they have come to a resolution,” according to court clerk notes. “The Government will return to the March 9, 2020 and March 13, 2020 policy.”

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