When the Trump administration announced its plans to ban international students from taking online classes at the universities they’re enrolled in during the pandemic, it not only raised eyebrows from colleges who welcome students from abroad, but also stoked fear among international students who would be affected. According to regulations announced by US International Customs and Enforcement (ICE), exchange students would either have to transfer to a college offering in-person courses during the fall, or else leave the country.
This deportation threat sparked panic and worry in many international students, with these students unclear how their academic futures and dreams would pan out. On one hand, it felt unsafe to attend in-person classes during a pandemic. On the other hand, deportation was a major disruption that promised to blindside students working toward a degree.
Backtracking under pressure
Fortunately for these students, the Trump administration recently backtracked on the regulations, announcing that international students would no longer be barred from taking online courses.
While new students will still be subject to the ban, which is a continuation of previous policies, current students will be able to keep attending university in a virtual setting without risk of deportation.
The initial announcement sparked lawsuits from universities like Harvard and MIT. While the regulations hadn’t allowed previous students to come to the United States just for online courses during normal peacetimes, it had allowed a hybrid learning environment incorporating both in-person and online classes. The 200 universities involved in the lawsuit were highly concerned that making international students feel unwelcome will have a negative impact on the rankings of US schools by discouraging future students.
For now, students from abroad can rest assured that the law is still on their side and that they’ll be protected from deportation if they must attend online classes.