ICYMI: No New International Students At Harvard Due To Immigration Rules No New International Students At Harvard Due To Immigration Rules

Of note:

In a stunning announcement, a Dean of Harvard told first-year international students they could not come to Harvard this fall because the Trump administration has not changed immigration rules on online instruction. The setback for students came only a week after a Harvard and MIT lawsuit persuaded the administration to withdraw guidance that would have forced out returning international students whose universities do not hold in-person classes for health reasons.

On July 21, 2020, Harvard Dean Rakesh Khurana wrote to all Harvard students to share a message sent to first-year international students. “I am writing today to share the difficult news that our first-year international students will not be able to come to campus this fall,” wrote Dean Khurana. “Despite the Immigration and Customs Enforcement [ICE] division’s decision to withdraw the directive that would have prohibited currently enrolled international students in the United States from taking an all-online course load this fall, this reversal does not apply to our newly admitted international students who require F-1 sponsorship. At present, any incoming student who received a Form I-20 to begin their studies this fall will be unable to enter the U.S. in F-1 status as course instruction is fully remote.”

Under ICE regulations, “For F-1 students enrolled in classes for credit or classroom hours, no more than the equivalent of one class or three credits per session, term, semester, trimester, or quarter may be counted toward the full course of study requirement if the class is taken online or through distance education and does not require the student’s physical attendance for classes, examination or other purposes integral to completion of the class.” (Emphasis added.)

When ICE issued guidance on March 9, 2020, that allowed currently enrolled international students to continue online because of the health crisis, it did not change the regulation nor address new students (it was the middle of the semester). The July 6, 2020, guidance required at least some in-person classes and included both new and returning international students. When ICE withdrew that July 6, 2020, guidance, the status quo became the guidance in place before March 9, 2020, as interpreted by universities, which means that the long-standing regulation (an incoming international student is not permitted a visa if more than 3 credit hours are remote) remains in effect for new international students. That will be the case unless the Department of Homeland Security makes clear another policy is in effect.

“We are deeply disappointed with the Department of Homeland Security’s  failure to provide updated and responsive guidance to colleges and universities as we requested they do on July 17,” said Miriam Feldblum, executive director of the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, in an interview. “New international students should be allowed to enter the United States to pursue their education. Many of these students have spent months – and more likely years – of preparation to start their education at our institutions. Their absence from the U.S. hurts all students and will have lasting effects. It undermines our nation’s standing as the destination of choice for international students. We will be looking to see what actions can be taken.”

Harvard is also pursuing additional options. “The University is working closely with members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation to extend the online exemption to newly admitted students and ensure that this flexibility remains in place for the duration of the public health emergency,” wrote Dean Khurana. “Unfortunately, we don’t anticipate any change to the policy in time for the fall semester.”

Dean Khurana said in his message that while the university explored options that allowed for “some in-person instruction as a way to enable first-year international students to obtain an F-1 Visa and join us on campus,” it was rejected “given the unpredictability of current government policies and the uncertainty of the Covid-19 crisis.” In addition to the health issues that prompted Harvard to go online in the fall, the university was concerned about putting new international students in a situation where they entered the U.S. but were forced to leave and could not return to their home country.

“Given this development, our first-year international students should consider the following two options: You can start your Harvard experience from home, taking courses remotely,” wrote Dean Khurana. “We have worked hard to create a robust program for all of our students to learn online, and we hope you will consider this option. Alternatively, you may defer the start of your time at Harvard.”

The 2020-2021 academic year may be a historically low year for international students coming to the United States. “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, with between 6,000 to 12,000 new international students at the low range, and 87,000 to 100,000 at the high range,” according to an analysis by the National Foundation for American Policy.

“The decline of as many as 263,000 students from the 2018-19 academic year total of approximately 269,000 new international students would be the lowest level of new international students since after World War II when the numbers started to be tracked,” notes the analysis. “The 12,000 level represents new international students if only new students from Mexico and Canada enrolled. Given uncertainties surrounding even Mexican and Canadian students, the most pessimistic forecast would put the number of new enrolled international students at only half the 12,000 level.”

At present, the administration has not responded to university requests to issue clear guidance on the admission of first-time international students. If the Trump administration expressed a keen interest in facilitating the entry of international students, analysts note, it could have put forward more flexible policies and worked closely with universities and international students. That has not been the case. As a result, new international students will not be coming to Harvard or, it appears, many other U.S. universities this fall

Source: No New International Students At Harvard Due To Immigration Rules

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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