It’s been a few months since the coronavirus crisis erupted, showing us how vulnerable our usual systems were. It also showed us how adaptable humanity is, with many companies, institutes, and people quickly going digital and maintaining their course despite the many restrictions. There have been many major, and often disruptive, changes in the past months. The latest of them all is the US International Customs Enforcement (ICE)’s new regulations that forbid students with F-1 visas from staying in the US if there are no in-person classes to attend. MIT, Harvard, and Northwestern University have filed a suit against the new ICE regulations. Let’s find out what the entire situation is!
Quick COVID Recap:
Let’s quickly brush over some key factors to consider before we get into the details:
- International applications drop across b schools and universities abroad.
- Universities announce STEM certification of their courses to attract more international students.
- COVID-19 Crisis hits the world. Travel restrictions, lockdown, imposed.
- Most institutions including Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, etc. move classes online.
- The number of cases rise exponentially, with no vaccine available.
- Students fight for fee reductions/refunds because classes are set to go online for future batches.
ICE’s New Regulations:
In a press release by ICE on the 6th of July, announced that as per their new regulations, students residing in the US on F1 and M1 visas cannot continue to reside in the US and take up online classes. This essentially means that if you are a student enrolled in a university in the United States, you can only reside in the United States if you have to attend classes in person. Students attending online classes will not be allowed to continue their residence in the States.
Furthermore, students who are in the middle of their coursework, and whose classes have been moved online, will be asked to leave the country. They must switch to a school/institute offering in-person classes if they wish to maintain their status.
Eligible F1 students may take up to 3 hours of online classes, but the majority of their coursework must be in-person/on-campus. Schools and institutions have been asked to update the information in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) within 10 days of the change.
If You're An International Student In The US, How Does This Affect You?
For starters, this means that you’ll be paying a lot of money for less than half of the experience. A major part of studying abroad is the exposure to different cultures. These interactions lead to a richer, more enlightening experience. If you were residing in the States, you would be exposed to the culture and lifestyle there despite your classes being online. Even if there are heavy restrictions on your movements and activities, getting some experience is better than none.
In addition, staying in the US gives you the opportunity to network with people and professionals residing in the US. This is important if you plan to get employed there (something which almost all students studying abroad aspire for). It’s easier to change your visa status than to apply for a fresh work permit when you’re residing in a different country. For this reason, many international students would be discouraged from pursuing a course in the States.
ROI is another factor. With most universities refusing to reduce their fees, the ROI drops further because the loss for international students now is twofold: reduced chances of international networking and reduced chances of international placements.
Over the past years, the number of international applications in b schools had reduced. To tackle this problem, many universities had announced that their programs would be STEM certified. However, those efforts seem to be in vain, with ICE's new regulations.
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How Have Universities Reacted?
As expected, the new ICE regulations were met with heavy criticism. So far, Harvard, MIT, and Northwestern University have filed a suit against ICE. Harvard has also posted a copy of the lawsuit on its website. This move doesn’t come as a surprise, as Trump had previously criticised Harvard. Trump, in late April, had claimed that Harvard would return half of its coronavirus stimulus package, which he himself had signed off a month earlier.
Harvard, MIT, and Northwestern make up for some of the top universities in the United States. Whether other universities will follow suit is yet to be seen. However, this is an important development, and if you are a student who aspires to study abroad, it is essential that you follow this news to see further developments.
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