Chinese families shun Western universities as coronavirus, strained ties are ‘scaring middle-class families’

Will have major impact on universities who have counted on this revenue source:

After being inundated with news about the worsening coronavirus pandemic and rising tensions between China and the West for months, Beijinger Joe Gao was compelled to make a difficult decision regarding his six-year-old daughter’s future education.

Rather than pay 300,000 yuan (US$44,000) in annual tuition for her, as he does for her nine-year-old brother who is studying at an international school in the capital, Gao has had to change his plans and is now looking to send his daughter to a public school in mainland China.

“Until this summer, I had been working hard with the aim of earning enough to send both of them abroad for secondary school. But things change so fast, and so we must, too,” he said. “I’m not that rich like a tycoon with strong anti-risk capabilities. I think the economic uncertainty, the pandemic and the growing negative perception of China are actually scaring many middle-class families of my kind.”

Gao, who runs an investment and services start-up, said he is still going to send his son abroad for schooling, but now prefers that be in an Asian country such as Singapore, instead of the United States or Australia, in case China’s relations with the West continue to deteriorate in the coming years.China’s overseas graduates return in record numbers to already crowded domestic job market21 Sep 2020

“If China and the West face a long-term confrontation into the future, trade between China and the [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] will increase, and studying in developed Asian areas would be safer for, and more friendly to, Chinese,” he said.

Gao is not alone in his rationalisation. A large and growing number of Chinese parents are cancelling or at least suspending plans to send their children to study abroad – a strong signal that wealthy and middle-class Chinese families are becoming less interested in sending their kids to study overseas.

About 81 per cent of affluent Chinese families whose children study foreign curriculums and take foreign examinations have decided to postpone plans to send them abroad for undergraduate or graduate studies, according to a survey released last month by Babazhenbang, an education start-up with a database of more than 400 schools preparing Chinese students for overseas high schools and colleges.

Among 838 respondents, the survey found that worries about the pandemic (82.6 per cent) and possible discrimination due to political tensions (60.9 per cent) were the top reasons for the postponements, followed by personal financial difficulties (43.5 per cent) and the fading advantages for overseas-trained talent in the domestic job market (21.7 per cent).

When all is said and done, the pandemic and increasingly rigorous visa checks could end China’s overseas schooling boom end much earlier than expected, according to Cao Huiying, founder of Babazhenbang.

“A lot of parents, especially among those middle-class families in second- and third-tier cities in China, have reconsidered and put their children back into the domestic education system,” she said.

Liu Shengjun, head of the China Financial Reform Institute, a Shanghai-based research firm, also pointed to the combination of factors leading to a rethink about overseas education options for Chinese families.

“Under the impact of the epidemic and the deterioration of Sino-US relations, which may last for years, there is expected to be a decline in both the number of Chinese students studying overseas and Chinese shopping abroad,” Liu said. “But the size of the decline cannot be predicted at this time.

“I think this trend will contribute to China’s domestic education market, but not sufficiently enough to offset weak domestic spending.”

According to a 2017 report by Union Pay International, Chinese students abroad spent more than 380 billion yuan (US$55.7 billion) annually — 80 per cent of which was on tuition and daily expenses.

Public concern among wealthy and middle-class mainland Chinese increased after the US confirmed last month that it had revoked more than 1,000 visas held by Chinese graduate students and research scholars. Escalating tensions between China and Australia have also fuelled concerns.

The two countries had been among the top overseas schooling destinations for Chinese students until recently.

“Last year, more than 90 per cent of our graduates applied only to American universities, while all graduates this year applied to more universities outside of the United States than American ones,” said Lion Deng, a counsellor with the international department of the Affiliated High School of Guangzhou University.

“All parents think the current conflict between China and the US is a direct and intense head-on collision that cannot be resolved in the short-term. Risks such as visa checks, as well as political and diplomatic uncertainties, are very likely to affect [students’] lives in college. It will definitely have a big impact on curbing their desire to educate their children in the United States,” Deng added.

“The number of students from our school applying for admission to high schools in the United States this year has dropped by 75 per cent compared with last year.”

Jade Zheng, who owns several flats in Shenzhen and runs a cafe, originally planned to send her seven-year-old son to Canada for school next year or the year after, and she had hoped he would adapt to the Western environment at an early age.

“In March, we decided to keep him in Shenzhen to study until at least high school, and currently we are going to delay the plan until he is an undergraduate,” she said. “The news is getting worse and worse, and we are feeling increasingly insecure, and [we feel] that things are getting out of control with regard to investing and living outside of China.”

Zheng’s brother and his wife sold their only apartment in 2018 and raised 5 million yuan (US$733,400) to send their son to high school and college in the US. “They were very happy back then but now are very worried about the safety of the 16-year-old boy,” Zheng said. “Additionally, the apartment they sold is now worth 8 million yuan.”

“Even if my son studies abroad, I hope he will return to Shenzhen to live in the future, because in the next 10 or 20 years, Shenzhen will definitely have more vitality and better prospects than any other areas, in terms of economic development,” Zheng added. “Maybe it would be a good idea to just go to college in Shenzhen in the future.”

Similar sentiment was echoed by Alice Chen, whose 18-year-old daughter started this autumn at a US Ivy League university but is studying remotely from Beijing due to the coronavirus.

“Our children born after 2000 are very different from us,” Chen said. “They feel that New York and London are not much different than Beijing and Shanghai. And they are satisfied with China’s economic development with a strong Chinese national identity.”

For many rich Chinese families and their children who have no plans to stay in the US or to visit for an extended period in the future, negative sentiment in the US about China is no longer important to them, Chen said.

“Their generation believes that China’s economy and society are better than most other countries,” she said. “When a company or a country becomes very strong, it will definitely be contained by competitors.”


Is the US the next big market for outbound students?

While Canadian study permit data to date does not show a significant increase, web data on “Get your study permit” shows an increase as seen in the chart below:

Looking at Canadian study permit data, no major difference between the There may be some major shifts under way in international student mobility patterns. The current upheavals in the United States higher education landscape appear to be driving greater numbers of US students to consider full degrees abroad. 

US universities and colleges were on the ropes prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, with many institutions already facing shrinking enrolments, budget crunches and stagnating public funding. Add COVID-19 to the mix and the challenges only get worse for US higher education. The cracks in the system are growing into chasms and the landscape may be forever changed. 

From reassurance to panic

Over the past few years an energetic debate has emerged among educational leaders regarding the tenuous nature of US higher education. The range of opinions fall along two extremes: reassurance and panic. 

On the reassurance end, some are arguing for maintaining the status quo, offering polite mollifications that enrolment fluctuations and changes in disciplinary offerings are perfectly normal and there will be hardly any permanent disruption to higher education as we have known it. 

On the panic end, some are questioning the long-term viability of ‘bricks and mortar’ institutions and are calling for a broad rethinking of US higher education. 

Indeed, these are challenging times for higher education in the US and pressure to act is growing. Already this year, a number of institutions have closed, including Urbana University, MacMurray College, Robert Morris University, Concordia University Portland and Marlboro College, and more are expected

Further complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic, some observers predict that between 10% and 20% of the more than 4,000 institutions in the US may close or merge in the near future and many more may be facing insolvency

Already, international students have begun to turn away from the US. According to the Institute of International Education (IIE), the number of new international students choosing to study in the US has been declining since 2015-16. Unfriendly national rhetoric, frequent and punishing shifts in immigration policy and fears for safety and security in the US, along with increasing international competition, are channelling student flows away from the US, particularly to the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. 

A future recruitment market?

Not surprisingly, it appears that a growing number of US students are beginning to show greater interest in pursuing study outside of the country. And why not? US students and their families are under tremendous strain. The rising cost of education and student debt, increasing scrutiny about the time needed to complete a bachelor’s degree and the ever-shifting nature of industry-driven qualifications combine to create a sense of considerable uncertainty for US students. 

Moreover, the country’s chaotic response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the questionable promise of residential instruction going forward are awakening in students the need to consider other viable alternatives. 

Dissatisfaction with racial justice and a generally increased awareness of the importance of global engagement are among other reasons pushing students to consider foreign study. The obvious question is not if, but when the US will become a robust market for recruiting prospective degree-seeking students. 

Heading abroad

According to IIE, about 340,000 US students studied abroad in 2017/18 as part of their respective home university degree studies. Compared to China and India, both countries that account for the largest proportion of degree-seeking international students, there has been little attention given to international degree-seeking mobility among US students. Because each country collects data differently, it has been challenging to ascertain an accurate and consistent accounting of US students seeking full degrees abroad. 

According to UNESCO, about 86,500 US students were studying abroad in 2017, which is about 15% higher than what was reported just five years earlier. In 2013, IIE conducted a comprehensive survey on US students enrolled in degree-seeking programmes abroad and reported that there were more than 46,500 students

Through its Project Atlas initiative, IIE has continued observing degree-seeking enrolments and in 2018 tallied more than 53,000 students from the relatively few countries that reported such enrolments. Still, IIE observes steady year-on-year increases, especially among graduate students pursuing degrees in specialised STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) fields. 

The majority of US students abroad in 2018 were studying in Anglophone countries, of which the UK (16,805) and Canada (13,035) were the top hosting countries, followed by France (6,264) Germany (4,242), China (3,333), Australia (2,875), New Zealand (2,405), Spain (2,030), Denmark (1,248) and Japan (757). 

Despite the lack of reliable data, various advisory organisations are emerging with hopes of capitalising on student interest by building the case for why and how US students should pursue full degrees abroad. 

Study.EU is one such organisation that provides an extensive online database with information on English-taught degree programmes throughout Europe. According to Study.EU, US students make up the second-largest group of users on the website, after Indian students. This continues in spite of a long list of closed borders for US citizens in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The factors encouraging US students abroad

Affordable Degrees Abroad is another organisation that appeals to prospective US students by emphasising the relative affordability and high academic quality of international degrees. Affordable Degrees Abroad has identified several factors that appear to be driving US students to consider full degrees abroad. 

1. Affordability. Affordability is a significant factor for US students. Compared to the US, many international institutions are considerably more affordable, with a significant number under US$17,000 a year. Some institutions charge under $3,000 a year which is practically free by US standards. US students may even use US federal financial aid at more than 400 international institutions. 

2. High-quality education. In the past the perceived educational quality of international degrees was questioned by some US parents, students or employers who were not familiar with global education. With the increasing popularity of global university rankings and other indicators of institutional reputation and prestige, uncertainty is being replaced with admiration and respect. 

3. Timespan to degree completion. Many degrees abroad are shorter. For example, some undergraduate degrees abroad can be completed in three years and graduate degrees in one to two years. Shorter time to degree completion further bolsters the case for affordability. 

4. Language of instruction. The number of English-taught degrees has grown dramatically around the world, even in countries where English may not be the primary language. For example, Germany now offers more than 1,600 programmes taught in English.

5. Career readiness. As international business and global operations have increased so, too, have demands for employees with international savvy. Earning a foreign degree, while once perceived by some US employers with suspicion, can be an asset today. Additionally, many countries have attractive post-study work visas that allow for students to gain valuable work experience before returning. 

6. Health, safety and security. The US response to the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed something that was present all along: it can be safer to live in another country with less crime, fewer gun deaths and stronger public health systems than in the US. A growing refrain is: “I want to send my kid somewhere that is handling COVID better.”

7. Racial injustice and inequality. The growing Black Lives Matter movement against racial disparities and injustice in the US has elevated a critical conversation. The legacy of racial inequalities, harsh political rhetoric and violence has left many students of colour, in particular black students, wary. For some, the promise of studying abroad in a more accepting and welcoming environment is attractive.

8. Political instability. The growth of nationalism and isolationist rhetoric, coupled with the anxieties of the current US election season, have created tensions and unease across the US. For some students, pursuing an international degree can be a way to achieve a solid education in a less fractured country. 

The right message and the right strategy

There are challenges, of course, that discourage US students from pursuing full degrees abroad, notwithstanding language and cultural issues. Of particular importance is ensuring that US students are prepared for the level of independence needed to succeed. US institutions generally have more robust campus and student service infrastructures compared to international institutions. Students must be prepared to navigate different cultural and academic systems. 

Although the US has largely been viewed by international recruiters as a non-degree market for outbound mobility, things may be changing. International institutions seeking to increase and further diversify international student enrolment, particularly from North America, might want to reassess the US market and begin positioning themselves accordingly. 

Although the sheer size, scope and complexity of the US education system can be daunting, those institutions with a compelling message, a clear value proposition and an informed strategy will likely find greater receptivity among US students than ever before. 

Dr Anthony C Ogden is managing partner of Gateway International Group, a global organisation seeking to accelerate international learning and engagement by assisting institutions and organisations around the world to succeed in a new era of higher education. For more information, click here. Denise Cope is president of Affordable Degrees Abroad through which she offers guidance to US students seeking affordable undergraduate or graduate degree options abroad. She also helps international universities formulate strategies for the US student market. For more information, click here.


Disputed Immigration Policy On Foreign Students Uses Flawed Report

Deliberately or accidentally flawed? And as noted in the article, shift of Indian students from USA to Canada:

A controversial proposed regulation that critics say will discourage international students from coming to America relies on a flawed Department of Homeland Security (DHS) report on visa overstays, according to a new analysis. The new rule would require U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to adjudicate more than 300,000 new extension applications each year when it is unable to process filings in its current workload on time. The new regulation is the Trump administration’s latest assault on high-skilled foreign nationals and could produce long-term negative consequences for America’s role as a center for science and innovation.

On September 25, 2020, the Trump administration published a proposed regulation that would mandate F-1 students be admitted only for fixed terms, generally two- or four-year periods, rather than the long-standing “duration of status” that allows students to remain in the United States and continue their studies until completion. The rule has a 30-day comment period and includes a fixed period of admission for J (exchange visitors) and I (foreign media) visa holders. Given the controversy and likely number of comments, it may be difficult for administration officials to complete and publish a final rule in time if Donald Trump does not win reelection.

A Flawed DHS “Overstay” Report: “The DHS ‘overstay’ reports upon which the regulation relies are highly flawed for policymaking purposes and should not be the basis for rulemaking on international students,” concluded a new analysis from the National Foundation for American Policy. “Problems with DHS systems properly identifying individuals who changed status inside the U.S. or left the country is an issue the DHS regulation fails to acknowledge. An examination of Department of Homeland Security reports finds the overstay rate for F-1 international students is not an actual overstay rate but only an upper-bound estimate of individuals who DHS could not positively identify as leaving the United States.”

The analysis concludes there are significant flaws in using the DHS overstay reports for a new regulation: “Under the proposed rule, students born in countries that a recent DHS report finds have an overstay rate of 10% or higher would be limited (along with certain other students) to a fixed term of only two years. Other students would be limited to four years. An approved extension would be required to remain in the country. But the overstay rates contained in the DHS reports are inflated and do not actually measure overstay rates. ‘The DHS figures represent actual overstays plus arrivals whose departure could not be verified,’ according to demographer Robert Warren. ‘That is, they include both actual overstays and unrecorded departures.’” (Emphasis added.)

“The Department of Homeland Security is knowingly relying on flawed reports as a pretext for the overall policy in the rule and to limit the admission periods for students from specific countries,” according to the National Foundation for American Policy report. “With circular logic, the 10% overstay rate threshold contained in the proposed rule comes not from an immigration law but from a presidential memorandum on overstays issued on April 22, 2019, that uses the same flawed DHS overstay reports. Students from approximately 60 countries, including Vietnam and the Philippines, would be limited to two-year terms (with the possibility of extensions).

“Extensions might be difficult to obtain as the focus in the proposed rule has moved away from allowing students to make normal academic progress to an enforcement-default, note attorneys, with the only reasons cited to approve an extension for additional time are for a ‘compelling academic reason, documented medical illness or medical condition, or circumstance that was beyond the student’s control.’

“In its FY 2019 report, DHS emphasizes the ‘suspected in-country overstay’ rate, a lower rate for countries than the overall overstay rate. DHS understands the ‘suspected in-country overstay’ rate is also overstated and largely an issue of an ability (or inability) to match records, since the report shows the FY 2018 overstay rate dropped by half when examined 12 months later after allowing more time to verify records for departures and change of status.”

One of the best arguments against the rule is that an individual committed to disappearing into the country after failing to attend classes would already be flagged by the current SEVIS system or would not be worried about submitting an extension application. The rule would only affect students with a genuine interest in continuing to study in the United States.

Expensive and Time-Consuming Process for International Students: Economists know when you tax or increase the price of something, you get less of it. DHS estimates the cost of filing an extension application for many F-1 students will exceed $1,000. That includes the cost of students filling out applications and submitting biometrics at USCIS offices. (See this article for more details on the impact of the rule on students and universities.)

The proposed rule will act as a tax increase on international students, both in dollars and in potential opportunity costs should extensions not be approved. The proposed rules make it clear extension approvals will not be a foregone conclusion.

Relying on USCIS To Process More Than 300,000 New Applications a Year: DHS estimates the new policy would require USCIS, an agency seeking a bailout from Congress, to adjudicate 364,060 new extension requests annually by 2024 and 300,954 in 2025 and later years.

At the California Service Center, an application to extend/change status (form I-539) takes 7.5 to 10 months for F students and up to 19 months for J exchange visitors. USCIS has threatened to furlough two-thirds of its workforce and cannot adjudicate extensions and other benefit requests in a reasonable time.

While DHS states in the proposed rule a student would remain in lawful status while waiting for a USCIS decision if an extension was timely filed, this ignores a critical problem: It will be too late for a student to make alternate academic plans if USCIS denies an extension. That would set the student back a year or more and generate the type of uncertainty that may dissuade people from studying in America.

Forcing Universities to Use E-Verify: There is little evidence U.S. universities are hotbeds of illegal immigration. Despite this, the Trump administration has used the proposed rule to compel all U.S. universities to use E-Verify. Any universities that do not sign up for E-Verify would be allowed to admit students for only two-year periods (with extensions available) under the pretext that DHS would be more likely to trust information from universities that sign up for the electronic employment verification system. Congress has never mandated all employers must use E-Verify.

DHS Admits the Rule Will Likely Reduce Enrollment and Make U.S. Universities Less Competitive: “The proposed rule may adversely affect U.S. competitiveness in the international market for nonimmigrant student enrollment and exchange visitor participation,” according to DHS. “Specifically, the proposed changes could decrease nonimmigrant student enrollments in the United States with corresponding increased enrollments in other English-speaking countries, notably in Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom.” DHS notes that in other countries admission is “typically valid for the duration of the student’s course enrollment” and students are “not generally required to file” an extension application.

The number of international students enrolled at U.S. universities declined by 4.3% between the 2016-17 and 2018-19 academic years. International students from India enrolled in graduate-level computer science and engineering at U.S. universities fell by more than 25% between 2016-17 and 2018-19. During the same period, international students from India at Canadian universities rose from 76,075 in 2016 to 172,625 in 2018, an increase of 127%.

“The administration is knowingly relying on flawed reports as a pretext for its overall policy and to limit the admission periods for students from specific countries in the proposed rule,” concludes the National Foundation for American Policy report.

The new policy threatens America’s ability to attract international students due to the added costs and increased uncertainty foreign students would face under the proposed regulation. If foreign countries that compete with the United States for international students were to create a new way to discourage students from coming to America, this is the policy they would design.

Source: Disputed Immigration Policy On Foreign Students Uses Flawed Report

International students call for COVID-19 immigration changes in Toronto

Some of the calls are worthy of consideration (e.g., post-graduate work program permit renewals), others divorced from reality (e.g., eliminating higher fees for international students, given that universities depend on the higher fees):

Current and former international students called for changes to Canada’s immigration rules on Saturday as they face a job market still recovering from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dozens of demonstrators gathered at Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland’s office in Toronto in the first of two events scheduled this weekend. A second event in Mississauga, Ont., is planned for Sunday.

The students say the requirements for graduates to gain permanent residency in Canada are too strict, and economic disruption from the COVID-19 crisis has made those requirements essentially impossible to meet.

Sarom Rho, an organizer with the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change who leads the Migrant Students United campaign, said the pandemic has compounded the difficulties international graduates face when entering the job market in Canada.

“During the COVID-19 crisis, millions of people in Canada have lost work and wages, but for migrant students there is an added cost,” Rho said by phone ahead of Saturday’s rally.

“Without jobs, students can’t apply for permanent residence.”

Post-graduate work permits are not currently renewable and Rho said this puts graduates who have been laid off or unable to find work during the pandemic at extra risk.

Graduates experiencing unemployment face deportation if they do not complete continuous, high-wage work before their permits expire, she noted.

The group is calling on the provincial and federal governments to make post-graduate work permits renewable so graduates struggling in the COVID-19 job market will not be deported or become undocumented.

An online petition calling on the federal government to address the issues international students face had attracted more than 18,000 signatures as of Saturday afternoon.

It reiterates the key demands in the Migrant Students United campaign, including making work permits renewable.

“We call on the federal government to make immediate changes that support students during the new global reality we are in,” the petition reads.

It also says families of international students should be able acquire work permits, asks that tuition fees be lowered to be on par with domestic rates and says all migrants should be granted permanent status.

Rho noted returning home is not an option for many graduates who come from countries that have been destabilized by economic devastation and other crises during the pandemic.

She said delays in immigration processing times have also left current international students on study permits without social insurance numbers, leaving them unable to find work.

These pressing concerns about students’ futures could be avoided simply, Rho said.

She said the weekend’s demonstrations call for simple fixes to a “punitive” system that sets students up to fail as they work to stay in Canada after their studies.

“This could all be fixed if there were a simple fix like making the work permit renewable, and even simpler, granting status for all migrants,” she said.

Neither Freeland nor Immigration Minister Marco Mendocino immediately responded to a request for comment.

Source: International students call for COVID-19 immigration changes in Toronto

Colleges, universities expecting large financial losses from drop in international students

We shall see over the next month or so when IRCC study permit data for July and August becomes available (July data should be out sometime next week):

Colleges and universities say they’re anticipating financial losses possibly in the billions of dollars due to a drop in international enrolments caused by the global pandemic.

The government of Canada last week took additional steps to make it easier for students to study online from abroad, but the national associations that represent universities and colleges say the losses are still likely to be significant. The associations are lobbying the federal government to make money available for postsecondary institutions.

Denise Amyot, president of Colleges and Institutes Canada, said a mid-June survey showed colleges expected their new international enrolments to fall by two-thirds this term, from about 90,000 to 30,000. It’s still unclear whether those fears will be realized, as data are not yet available, but colleges are hoping the impact will be less than expected, Ms. Amyot said.

“Administrators are worried right now. They’re worried about the financial impact. They’re worried they’ll have fewer programs to offer domestic students,” she said. “Every student counts right now. I can’t think of a better way to put it.”

International students are crucial to university finances because they represent half of all tuition revenue. The impact of the pandemic may be more pronounced for colleges, though, as they tend to offer shorter programs that result in more frequent student turnover.

International students contribute nearly $22-billion a year to the Canadian economy, according to federal government estimates, with billions flowing from postsecondary tuition fees alone. Ms. Amyot said an analysis conducted on behalf of the colleges estimates between $1.8-billion and $3.5-billion in lost revenue, depending on the length and severity of the pandemic.

Universities Canada said it does not yet know the extent of losses across the sector. Some universities, including the University of British Columbia and the University of Alberta, said international acceptances are in line with previous years, but numbers aren’t firm as students still have a month to withdraw. And the picture may be quite different from one institution to another.

“We are in active discussions with federal government departments about how we can work together to stabilize from the potential loss of international students,” said Cindy McIntyre, assistant director, international relations at Universities Canada.

Education is primarily a provincial responsibility. Ontario provided an additional $25-million to postsecondary institutions early in the pandemic to cope with some of the additional associated costs. Quebec gave $75-million to institutions and made more money available in student assistance. But the national postsecondary associations are aiming to persuade the federal government to contribute some pandemic-specific funds to the sector, as they did with the $2-billion recently announced for elementary and high schools.

Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISEDC) said Wednesday that Ottawa is having conversations with the provinces and territories regarding the types of supports that are needed. And Ottawa has since taken steps to ease some of the concerns of institutions, including a two-step process to speed approval for those who want to start their studies online. It has also allowed U.S. students to cross the border as long as they quarantine for 14 days on arrival and increased federal student financial aid.

At the moment only those with permits issued before mid-March whose travel is deemed essential and those from the U.S. are allowed to enter Canada.

Last week, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) announced measures that will allow students to complete one-year programs online without being penalized on the length of their postgraduate work permit. But the decision many institutions are waiting on is whether other international students with visas processed after mid-March will be allowed to enter the country. At the moment provincial and federal health officials are assessing plans submitted by institutions for the safe isolation of arriving students.

“It’s now too late to get international students here for the start of the fall semester, but many of our institutions still have an interest in seeing international students arrive over the course of the fall,” Ms. McIntyre said.

When asked whether Ottawa would step in with more funding to address the shortfall, ISEDC did not answer the question directly, but pointed to changes the government has already brought in, including $450-million in funding for academic research. IRCC also cited previous measures to help international students.

“Recently, changes were brought forward to give international students more certainty about their ability to enter Canada once travel restrictions are eased in Canada and their home countries,” said Mike Jones, a spokesman for Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino. “Students who have submitted a complete application will receive priority processing to make sure they can begin their classes while outside Canada, and complete up to 50 per cent of their program from abroad if they can’t travel sooner.”

There were more than 700,000 international students at all levels in 2018, a number that has grown rapidly over the past decade. Normally tens of thousands of new students would be arriving in September, but not this year. At the moment only those with permits issued before mid-March are allowed to enter Canada.

Gautham Kolluri, who runs an international student recruitment company, said students and families are apprehensive about starting an expensive degree at a time when it’s unclear when they will be able to travel to Canada. Many international students pay tuition fees of $20,000 or more, which many plan to partly fund by working part-time while studying.

Mr. Kolluri said he has a few hundred clients who have been accepted by Canadian institutions but he believes a majority will either defer admission or drop those programs in the next month. He thinks only a quarter will pursue their programs online from their home countries.

“They will lose networking opportunities and they will lose the Canadian experience they want, so they will delay and wait and see,” Mr. Kolluri said. “Investing $30,000 without knowing what will happen is a big gamble.”

He said Canada remains a top destination country, as political developments in the U.S. have made it a less desirable option.


Foreign Students and Online Instruction: Canada’s Approach

An Intern for the largely anti-immigration Centre for Immigration Studies, has praise for the Canadian approach to international students during COVID-19 (and of course, there is also an anti-immigration “industry”:

Last week, ICE announced that new incoming foreign students will be denied entry to the U.S. if their institution plans to deliver solely online coursework. Such a regulation makes sense; new international students can engage in virtual learning and come to the U.S. once they have a reason to be on campus. However, the announcement only arrived after the agency succumbed to special interests regarding the larger current student visa population, which is now free to enter and remain in the U.S., regardless of whether students are studying in-person or remotely.

As a sophomore at Dartmouth College, some of my closest friends in university are F-1 visa recipients, and I have directly seen how international students enhance the campus community. But the Department of Homeland Security must look after the national security interests of the U.S., which are undermined when over one million foreign students are able to study virtually off-campus, and the federal government cannot track their whereabouts. That said, ICE’s initial decision was abrupt, leaving many in precarious situations. For example, some of my some of my international peers, who had already returned home, feared that studying remotely in their native country could result in the cancellation of their F-1 visas.

Perhaps, instead of entirely backing down and resorting to complete non-enforcement, the United States should have handled the student visa situation through a more measured approach to reconcile both national immigration security interests, as well as international student well-being. And it seems such a policy is being implemented in Canada.

Despite having a dismal record on immigration issues, Justin Trudeau’s reigning Liberal government is handling the Canadian foreign student situation with prudence. Last week, Canada’s federal immigration department announced that international students will not be allowed into the country until their institutions reopen. Entry will be only permitted on an individual discretionary basis, if one can prove they need to be on campus. Most Canadian public universities are delivering entirely virtual instruction, with the exception of a few specific STEM programs that feature an in-person lab component. This Canadian policy stands in accordance with the correct notion that entry into a country should be permitted only to those who have legitimate reasons to do so; only when international students have a reason to be on campus will they be permitted to study in the country.

Marguerite Telford, the Center’s Director of Communications, drew an analogy to tourist visas to explain this idea. Despite closing their doors to visitors, many museums are offering virtual tours. Issuing a student visa to someone studying at a virtual institution is akin to a country granting a visitor visa to a foreigner planning to attend a virtual museum tour: something that is unnecessary and preposterous. Canada has adopted this belief in shaping its student visa policy; however, it has simultaneously enacted several measures to mitigate any concerns of foreign students.

Canada has ensured that they will not have their visas rescinded for temporarily continuing their education abroad virtually. Further, foreign students already in the country have not been instructed to leave; if they do voluntarily, however, they will not be granted re-entry until on-campus instruction resumes at their institution. Of course, Canada’s decision is not entirely uncontroversial, given it has upset the usual migration advocates, who are urging the government to designate every foreign student as “essential”. However, viewed through a rational lens, the policy represents a pragmatic middle ground: international students outside of Canada will only return when their campus reopens and they have a clear reason to do so, but they will not be penalized on visa grounds for studying virtually from abroad, and those still inside the country can remain put.

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada has pragmatically handled its student visa situation by balancing national security and international student interests – an approach the U.S. should have likewise adopted. However, in America, negotiation is difficult when interest groups, such as the higher education industry, refuse to co-operate. Unfortunately, the government’s response should not be to completely kowtow. Strong immigration policy entails making tough decisions. Until then, we are stuck with capitulation without compromise – and that does not put American interests first.

Source: Foreign Students and Online Instruction: Canada’s Approach

Canada provides exception for U.S. students planning to study north of border

That was fast (a few days after this article Canada’s travel rules unfair to first-year foreign students, U.S. parents say:

The federal government appears to have relaxed restrictions at the Canada-U.S. border that would have made it impossible for first-year university students from the United States to enter the country.

An update to the government’s guidance for international students, posted Friday, now says a student coming from the U.S. may no longer need a study permit that was issued on or before March 18, the day the border restrictions were first announced.

New York resident Anna Marti, whose daughter is planning to attend McGill University in Montreal this fall, said she was part of a “group effort” by parents across the U.S. who lobbied their senators, members of Congress and Richard Mills, the acting U.S. ambassador to Canada, to get the restrictions eased.

The rule would have made it all but impossible for U.S. freshmen to get into Canada, while other later-year students with pre-existing student permits could cross the border easily — even after having spent the summer south of the border, where the COVID-19 pandemic has been growing in severity for months.

Marti said she was told by Mills that the issue came up during ongoing discussions in Washington about the Canada-U.S. border restrictions — and that her entreaties, as well as media coverage of the plight of U.S. parents, “helped to put a ‘face’ to the issue.”

Citizenship, Refugees and Immigration Canada now says border officers will accept a “port of entry letter of introduction” that shows the student was approved for a study permit, in lieu of a permit approved before March 18. The exception, however, only applies to students from the United States.

“We celebrated, although we won’t fully celebrate until she is in Montreal,” Marti said, noting that the family — and many others — must now wait for those letters of introduction and study permits to come through.

She’s also well aware of the fact that students hoping to travel to Canada from countries outside the U.S. are still bound by the March 18 restriction.

“I just hope someone continues addressing the issue for all international freshmen,” she said. “International students who quarantine are not the real danger.”

Other parents in the U.S. remain wary of the border, since the rules require anyone seeking entry to Canada to be travelling for a “non-discretionary or non-optional purpose” — a description that could exclude students whose courses are being held entirely online.

The total number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S., growing by tens of thousands of cases a day, reached the 4.4 million mark Monday, with more than 150,000 deaths to date. Premature reopenings, an uneven and cavalier approach to physical distancing in parts of the country and a partisan divide over mask requirements have helped to fuel a surge in cases.

Canada, by comparison, has reported 114,000 total cases and nearly 8,900 fatalities so far.

“There are no measures in place to provide for expedited processing of study permit applications,” Canada’s immigration department said in an update earlier this month.

“Foreign nationals who had a study permit application approved after March 18, 2020 … may not be exempt from the travel restrictions (and) they should not make any plans to travel to Canada until the travel restrictions are lifted, as they will not be allowed to travel to or enter Canada.”

Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino announced last week the government would prioritize study permits for students who have submitted complete applications online. Students will also be able to apply time spent studying online toward their eligibility for work permits in Canada, provided at least 50 per cent of the program is completed in Canada.

Ottawa has also introduced a priority processing system and a two-stage process for students who are unable to obtain all the necessary documentation.

A spokesman for Mendicino did not respond to media inquiries Monday.

Source: Canada provides exception for U.S. students planning to study north of border

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

Canada’s travel rules unfair to first-year foreign students, U.S. parents say

Given the ongoing and unfolding disastrous handling of COVID-19, no surprise that the border remains largely closed. And no surprise that US parents are pressing their case for more flexibility:

Parents of students in the United States who hoped to begin their university studies in Canada this fall are frantically trying to convince the federal government to relax rules that make it next to impossible for their kids to enter the country.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has closed the door to students with study permits granted after March 18, the day Canada and the U.S. announced a ban on non-essential cross-border travel, while students with pre-existing valid permits will be allowed in.

Some parents say that discriminates against first-year students, most of whom didn’t have time to get their permits approved before the deadline after receiving an offer of acceptance from Canadian schools.

“The way things are right now, the only ones that are not able to come into Canada are the freshmen, and that makes no sense to anyone,” said Anna Marti, a resident of New York whose daughter was expecting to launch her post-secondary career in September at McGill University in Montreal.

“They’re the ones that are going to get their study permits after March 18.”

The total number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. passed the 4 million mark Thursday, with nearly 144,000 deaths to date. Premature reopenings, an uneven and cavalier approach to physical distancing in parts of the country and a partisan divide over mask requirements have helped to fuel a surge in cases. Some experts are projecting a death toll in excess of 200,000 by November.

Canada, by comparison, has reported 112,000 total cases and 8,870 fatalities so far.

“There are no measures in place to provide for expedited processing of study permit applications,” Canada’s immigration department said in an update posted late last week.

“Foreign nationals who had a study permit application approved after March 18, 2020 … may not be exempt from the travel restrictions (and) they should not make any plans to travel to Canada until the travel restrictions are lifted, as they will not be allowed to travel to or enter Canada.”

Marti and others have signed an online petition urging Ottawa to reconsider the study-permit rule, arguing that it’s unfair to only allow foreign students with older permits — many of whom spent the summer in the U.S., where the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic has been escalating in recent weeks — into the country.

The rule also unfairly punishes students in those parts of the country where the virus is less severe, such as Marti’s home in the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, she said.

New York City was a major epicentre for the initial U.S. outbreak back in April, prompting an aggressive response led by Gov. Mario Cuomo that helped to beat back the virus. People in the state have taken the threat more seriously as a result, Marti said.

“We’ve all been through hell,” she said.

“My daughter has not seen her friends in months. To quote Gov. Cuomo, she’s New York smart — she’s out there with her mask, always keeping social distance, and she’s telling me all the time, ‘I don’t understand this. There’s zero chance that we could be a risk.'”

Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino announced last week the government would prioritize study permits for students who have submitted a complete application online. Students will also be able to apply time spent studying online toward their eligibility for a work permit in Canada, provided at least 50 per cent of the program is completed in Canada.

The March 18 threshold for study permits has been in place since the border restrictions were originally imposed, said Kevin Lemkay, a spokesman for Mendicino. Since then, Ottawa has introduced “more flexibility” for students, Lemkay said, including priority processing and a two-stage process for students who are unable to obtain all the necessary documentation.

“Our government knows that international students bring tremendous economic, cultural and social benefits to Canada,” he said.

“We understand that students and post-secondary institutions were eager for certainty, and these measures were taken with that in mind. We hope to have more to say soon.”

The petition, which has more than 3,000 signatures, calls on the federal government to define all international students as essential travellers. It says students unable to enter Canada will lose access to vital educational resources, research facilities and income opportunities, and may not feel safe remaining in their home countries.

Some McGill employees who expect to be in proximity with students from the U.S. next month have raised concerns about why the school is permitting any international students on campus when the bulk of the course work can be handled online.

The university says the changes to course delivery are strictly temporary and that there will be an on-campus experience for students who are able to attend in person.

“Although the fall semester may look somewhat different than usual, the university is working with faculties to develop on-campus student life and learning activities, respecting careful safety protocols, for students who will be in Montreal in the fall term,” spokeswoman Shirley Cardenas said in a statement.

Those activities will be “replicated” for students who remain outside of Canada, she added.

“All international students entering Canada are required to quarantine for 14 days and are subject to monitoring, verification and enforcement by public health authorities. Individual accommodations will be available for any student needing to self-isolate.”

Source: Canada’s travel rules unfair to first-year foreign students, U.S. parents say

Canada tells most international students not to come until travel ban is lifted

Effect on economy will be significant:

International students have been told not to make travel plans to Canada until after Ottawa’s border restrictions are lifted.

In the latest update of its program guidelines, the federal immigration department said Tuesday that international students will not be allowed to enter Canada if they have received a student visa after the country’s border lockdown on March 18.

Even those who have a valid study permit from that date or earlier will be denied entry unless they can prove their travel is “non-discretionary or non-optional.”

“While many Canadian college and university campus locations are closed, classes are generally continuing online. Travel will be deemed discretionary or non-discretionary depending on individual circumstances,” said the advisory.

In 2019, more than 650,000 international students studied in Canada at the post-secondary level. The sector contributed more than $21 billion to the Canadian economy through students’ spending and tuition fees, which are two to three times higher than their domestic peers. The largest cohort of the students usually arrives in the fall.

To ensure Canada remains a competitive destination of choice for international education during the pandemic, the federal government is allowing students to count the time spent pursuing their studies online abroad toward their eligibility for a post-graduation work permit.

If they have submitted a study permit application and if at least half of their program is completed in Canada when the border reopens, they will be eligible for the work permit, which many international students count on as an ultimate pathway for permanent residence.

“The pandemic has had a significant impact on international students and the Canadian institutions and communities that host them. This is why we have implemented a series of measures to support them,” Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said earlier.

“We value the contribution of young people seeking a high-quality education in Canada, and we’re making every effort to minimize how current challenges affect their plans and dreams for the future.”

Despite the special COVID-19 measures, international students have complained that schools still require the same hefty tuition fees for online programs, which present other challenges regarding time-zone differences. Some students may have to stay up for their class in the wee hours from their home countries.

Sarom Rho, a migrant student worker organizer, said Ottawa has been tone-deaf to the needs of international students, who have been asking for a tuition freeze and work permit extension, among other things that could help them through the pandemic.

“International students are disappointed with these announcements,” said Rho of Migrant Students United. “The government’s response is geared towards maintaining international enrolment and fees as a source of revenue to keep schools operating. It’s disavowing its responsibility to the quality of education for these students.”

According to the immigration department’s updated guidelines, border agents have the final say in admitting arriving students.

Students must prove their presence in Canada is necessary for their continued participation in their program, such as in labs and workshops, or prove that pursuing online studies is not an option for their school or program or not possible from their home country, for example, due to internet restrictions or bandwidth limitation.

Like all travellers, international students who enter Canada must undergo the necessary health checks and self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.

Some universities and colleges have issued support letters to incoming international students advising them to take extra precautions before travelling to Canada because students are responsible for the costs of returning to their home countries.

At the University of Saskatchewan, for example, students are recommended to provide border agents support letters from the administration saying that “your studies cannot be completed online and you are expected to to start on-site.”