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Banning international students is a cruel, senseless policy | READER COMMENTARY

The new rule requires international students enrolled in online-only courses to "depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction, to remain in lawful status" or face consequences including deportation, according to an ICE statement.
The new rule requires international students enrolled in online-only courses to "depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction, to remain in lawful status" or face consequences including deportation, according to an ICE statement. (Dreamstime/Dreamstime/TNS)

Colleges and universities are facing countless unprecedented challenges during COVID-19. As universities balance financial realities alongside the health concerns, they must also uphold their missions: educating global leaders. On July 6, Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced that international students whose schools offer online-only education in the fall will have to return to their home countries (”Harvard, MIT sue to block ICE rule that would force many international students to leave US if they take classes entirely online,” July 8). Staying in the United States may lead to students’ deportation. This policy is devastating for higher education institutions, students and the economy.

Higher education thrives by attracting and educating the world’s brightest minds. Students from the U.S. and across the globe play vital roles not only in sharing and exchanging knowledge but in developing and innovating new solutions. Importantly, the enrollment of international students also subsidizes costs for domestic students. As higher education costs rise and universities face decreasing state funding, tuition revenue from international students is key to keeping costs down. As the global economy remains turbulent and higher education’s finances continue to face uncertainty during COVID-19, failing to serve international students will lead to an even bigger crisis.

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This policy is just cruel. Higher education institutions are effectively forced to choose between financial stability and human well-being. Further, the students who attend these institutions will be forced to choose between continuing their education and risking their health. Not to mention returning to their home countries may lead to unsuitable environments for online education, challenges managing course requirements and relationships across time zones and being separated from numerous educational and community supports. As a graduate student who is trying to navigate a cross-country move during COVID-19, I cannot imagine trying to change my lease, store my belongings indefinitely and organize international travel while identifying what my future educational trajectory looks like.

Banning international students from taking online courses only leads to greater upheaval and instability for all students, administrators, faculty and universities. I urge our leaders in education and government to prioritize education, stability and well-being. Banning international students from online coursework harms students, higher education institutions and the future of our global leaders

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Anna Javins, Baltimore

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