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‘We stand in support of international students.’ Dickinson College Responds to Reversal of Student-Visa Policy

Mermaid photo

Announcement arrives in wake of Harvard-MIT lawsuit and amicus brief

by MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson

On July 14, the federal government rescinded a policy that threatened international students’ access to U.S. higher education this year. The reversal arrived the week after the Trump administration announced a regulation that sent shockwaves through the American higher-ed community and just days after Dickinson joined in the fight against it. 

In light of the Tuesday announcement, international students at U.S. colleges and universities may now take online-only courses without risk of deportation or loss of immigration status.

“This is an important victory for all American colleges and universities and all of the students we serve,” said Dickinson President Margee Ensign. “We are relieved that our international students will be able to continue their educations.” 

The latest announcement arrives during a tumultuous month for U.S. higher-education officials, as they plan for the rapidly approaching 2020-21 academic year.

The Trump administration had announced unexpectedly on July 6 that international students at American colleges and universities would need to attend in-person classes this year, despite the current global pandemic or risk being out of immigration status and being deported. Under this policy, international students attending U.S. colleges that had moved to all-online instruction would have to leave the U.S. or would be considered out of status. Students remaining in their home countries and taking online-only courses through U.S. colleges and universities would have their student-visa records made inactive.

The July 6 development contrasted sharply with the federal government’s spring 2020 announcement that it would temporarily relax Student and Exchange Visitor Program requirements in response to the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. While previously international students were limited in the number of remote-learning credits they could take while in the U.S., they were permitted to take more online classes during the spring and summer 2020 semesters as colleges and universities suspended in-person courses to comply with state and local lockdown mandates.

In response, Harvard and MIT filed a lawsuit against the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), seeking to prevent ICE and DHS officials from enforcing the newly announced federal requirement. 

Dickinson joined an amicus brief supporting the Harvard-MIT suit last week. Other participating institutions include Cornell, Duke, Georgetown, Johns Hopkins, New York, Stanford, Purdue, Princeton and Yale universities as well as the University of Pennsylvania and the University of California. 

Tuesday's abrupt announcement that international students would again be able to take online-only classes without penalty this year was welcome news, said President Ensign, who expressed gratification on behalf of Dickinson and the greater higher-ed community.

“We stand by our international students. They are integral to our college, and they are essential to all American colleges and universities because the diversity of ideas and experiences they bring to our campuses create opportunities to help prepare all of our students to solve problems in a global society,” Ensign said. "Because of this, international students are vital to the future of our nation.” 


Published July 16, 2020