New restrictions on international students announced yesterday by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement are ill-conceived, cruel, and senseless. They will damage our economy and weaken the education universities provide to all students.
In an egregiously untimely way, ICE has significantly changed its guidance and rules from earlier this year allowing international students flexible enrollment options for the duration of the pandemic emergency.
Under the new regulations, if a COVID-19 outbreak forces a college to resort to online learning—as colleges everywhere did in the spring—then all international students attending the school would be forced to leave the country or transfer to a school offering in-person classes. They also would then lose eligibility for internships and post-completion employment experience, which can be crucial aspects of a college education.
Now, weeks from the beginning of fall semester and as COVID-19 cases rise in many areas of the country, the administration is forcing more than one million international students to choose between returning to their U.S. university with the risk of being sent home, putting their life on hold by taking a leave of absence, or giving up on the United States by transferring to a school in another country.
An economic analysis by NAFSA: Association of International Educators shows that international students studying at U.S. universities contribute more than $41 billion a year to the U.S. economy and support more than 450,000 jobs.
Even more important, they enrich college classrooms and add a vibrancy to campuses that deepens the college education for every student. There is no better way to prepare to work in a global marketplace and live in a global society than to live and learn on a campus where students from around the world share their ideas, experience, and friendships.
Ohio Wesleyan has a long history as a global campus, and international students have been leaders on campus, recently serving as senior class presidents and representatives to the Board of Trustees. Many have graduated to become leaders in medicine, science, business, and other fields across the country. We value our international students and will do all we can to support them in every way possible.
I am outraged with this decision that uses international students as a political pawn in a pandemic. Our efforts in higher education should be fully focused on ensuring the health and well-being of all members of our campus communities without the concern that a decision to move to full or partial online learning could force our international students to abandon their education.
President, Ohio Wesleyan University