Government Rescinds Rule Preventing International College Students From Studying Online

By Hugh T. Ferguson, NASFAA Staff Reporter

A federal judge announced that the government has agreed to rescind its recently proposed rule from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which would prohibit international students from remaining in the country should their fall coursework operate fully online.

The announcement came during a hearing after a number of schools, led by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), contested the rule, which could lead to international students facing an initiation of removal proceedings if they did not transfer to an institution offering in-person instruction for the upcoming semester. The government also gave institutions just nine days — until Wednesday July 15 — to report whether they would be operating fully online in the fall. 

Prior to Tuesday’s brief hearing, the rule had been met with mounting opposition from a number of lawmakers and higher education institutions with arguments centered on the disruption such guidance would cause for institutions of higher education.

NASFAA on Friday joined dozens of higher education associations in a letter sent to Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Chad Wolf in opposition “in the strongest possible terms” to the new rule.

“We ask that you withdraw this guidance as soon as possible, and grant needed flexibility for our international students and institutions during the global pandemic,” the letter states

NASFAA also signed onto an amicus brief with more than 70 higher education organizations that called on the judge to rule against the Trump administration.

“Having scrambled since March to deal with the fallout of the pandemic, higher education institutions now face additional chaos due to the directive — including a nine-day ultimatum (currently 60 hours away) to confirm whether in-person classes will be held (or not). To say that the directive is arbitrary and capricious would be an understatement,” the brief read. “Given the immediate, irreparable, and far-reaching harms it will cause without so much as a hint of countervailing benefit, the agency’s unexplained change in position is all the more inexplicable. This Court should grant preliminary injunctive relief now.”

While the agreement offers colleges and universities a respite from sorting out how to administer coursework to international students in the fall, it’s unclear whether the Trump administration could revise the policy.

“My thanks to everyone for the courtesy and professionalism and extremely high level of competence that's been demonstrated by everyone throughout these preliminary proceedings,” said U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs. “We'll see what happens next, but thank you all for making this, at least from my perspective, as easy on the court, as it could have been.”

 

Publication Date: 7/14/2020


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