University addresses recent federal guidance on international students for the Fall 2020 semester

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Sam Ford/THE REVIEW
​The Student and Exchange Visitor Program’s (SEVP) recently proposed changes to its guidelines for international students could affect millions around the country.​

BY
​Managing Sports Editor​

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program’s (SEVP) recently proposed changes to its guidelines for international students could affect millions around the country.

Under this new guidance, international students would not be able to participate in a fully online course load while remaining in the United States this fall. At the moment, the changes have not been finalized in the Federal Register yet and only serve as guidelines for institutions in the fall.

The university’s Office for International Students and Scholars (OISS) responded to these new proposed guidances and issued a letter to the student body from Associate Deputy Provost, Ravi Ammigan. On Friday, OISS also held an online forum with students and faculty to discuss the matter.

The university’s decision to have both online and in-person classes classifies the university as a hybrid class model. According to Ammigan, the hybrid model does fall under the proposed guidances and benefits international students attending Delaware as full-time students under F-1 visas.

“The guidance for schools with a hybrid model allows F-1 students to take some online courses as long as they maintain enrollment in at least one in-person class,” Ammigan said in the letter.

OISS is set to submit a plan to SEVP on Aug. 1 that outlines the university’s plan for the fall semester. The plan will include information on the switch to online courses set to take place after Thanksgiving break.

“We overall, and for the totality of the semester, see the semester as a hybrid program,” Janica Cimo, Associate Director of Immigration Services for OISS, said during the forum. “We believe [the program] should be okay, and it should not require the termination of the F-1 visas or status for our students.”

The hybrid model allows for students who are pursuing a degree at the university to take more than one online course but disallows exclusively online courses. Similarly, students who are set to begin seeking a degree on-campus are allowed to enter the country as long as the student is enrolled in at least one course that requires physical presence.

In the occurrence that a new student cannot enter the country, the university plans to defer the student and their records to a later term in which the student can attend the university in person.

The main challenge comes for students who are currently pursuing a degree outside the country. The federal government’s guidances make it so any student in this scenario will have to go through Authorized Early Withdrawal, a recognized termination with no “adverse implications” wherein a student is allowed to leave prior to the completion of their program.

This process is used by international students who are in need of leaving the United States and allows them to easily return. According to OISS, once a student is set to come to the United States, the student should contact their office.

For students enrolled in the English Language Institute and Academic Transitions Pathways, similar procedures are in effect under the guidelines. However, students enrolled in these programs must maintain full-time, in-person courses according to Vina Titaley, Assistant Director of Special Programs for OISS.

Lawsuits and litigation have followed the recent decision, and institutions across the country have begun to engage in legal action. Notable schools such as Harvard, MIT, Johns Hopkins and the University of California have all sued the Trump administration as of this article’s publication.

The OISS forum panel did not state whether or not Delaware would follow in the footsteps of those other universities, however, Ammigan highlighted the university’s continued advocacy efforts.

“Our director of federal relations, Angela Anderson, is working closely with our congressional delegations to seek the support on this matter,” Ammigan said. “The UD leadership continues to be very mindful and very intentional on how we continue to push our advocacy efforts forward.”

The panel also informed viewers of more events and webinars in the upcoming weeks. An update meeting is scheduled for July 17 and a meeting with immigration attorneys from Goldblum and Pollins is set for July 27.

Ammigan in both his letter and the forum expressed his displeasure with the new guidelines and noted his support to the international students attending the university.

“You matter to us, we’re here for you, you’re very important to the university,” Ammigan said. “We’ve got a very long tradition of having international students and supporting international students at the University of Delaware; we will not let that fade.”

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