08 Jul Harvard and MIT Sue US Gov’t For Barring International Students from Online-Only Universities

Both Harvard University & the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have joined forces to file a federal lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) over new ruling that now bars international students from living in the U.S. while taking online courses.

The suit was filed this morning, Wednesday July 8, in the U.S. District Court in Boston and requests a temporary restraining order for Homeland Security and ICE to prevent the enforcement of newly stated federal guidelines that allow for removal proceedings of international students who are unable to transfer to a school offering in-person classes.

Under the ICE guidelines, “students attending schools operating entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States.” Students who are enrolled in such programs “must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction.”

In the official filing against ICE and Homeland Security, Harvard and MIT have deemed this new ruling an “abuse of discretion.” For the sake of technicality, they state that online classes were never allowed for students in the U.S. with F-1 Visa status, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ICE had issued an exemption earlier in the year. But as the new school year approaches and COVID-19 cases are statistically increasing, ICE is now rescinding these allowances and demanding that universities open for in-person teaching.

As it stands right now, President of the United States, Donald Trump is further threatening funding for schools stating that he disagrees with CDC guidelines concerning reopening. The National Association of College admissions officers, along with universities across the US, is condemning the move and lobbying congress.

In the 2018-2019 academic year alone, international students contributed nearly $41 billion to the national economy, according to NAFSA: Association of International Educators. In New York State alone, more than 12,000 international students support $5 billion to the economy and support 58,000 jobs.

Most colleges in the U.S. are actually planning to adopt a hybrid model of in person and online instruction for the upcoming academic year. Harvard had proposed to reduce student population my alternating years allowed on campus at the same time while keeping all classes online and its President has already announced that Harvard will “work closely” with other colleges and universities nationwide to “chart a path forward.”

Universities will find a way to keep their enrolment at all costs since International students account for a significant portion of revenue for U.S. universities. These new rules for international students could cost U.S. colleges $41 billion. One-third of all the international students in the U.S. come from China — more than any other nation, both in sheer numbers and as an overall percentage. Deep cuts in state funding for higher education have put pressure on schools to admit more students who need less aid, which is why so many schools have come to rely on the revenue from foreign students, who typically pay top dollar.

Most AIM students attend Private Colleges that are fairly well funded, and are agile and flexible so we expect minimal fallout because these schools will adjust. Fortunately, AIM operations will not be impacted as such because we already positioned students to apply to schools that have extensive international student support and those schools support international students and indeed have already reached out to these students RE new I-20’s and are having town hall meetings and speaking to their international students about next steps, etc.

Our advice to students is two fold:

For students admitted already and headed to college in the Fall:
stay calm and check with your university’s admissions / international student office – students that accept international students have Designated School Officials (DSOs) trained to handle queries etc. No doubt your university will update you. Please reach out to them because new I-20’s must be issued by August4, according to ICE.

For international students planning to attend 2021 my advice is this – work on being the VERY BEST CANDIDATE POSSIBLE especially if you need Financial Aid. Universities are enduring losses and they have targets to meet so they will be looking to domestic full pay students to meet those targets.

As an International student, especially one needing aid, there has always been the need to create a compelling profile and attend a school that is robust, well funded and can offer you opportunities and funding

Stay in the know, current on info and opportunities and create STRONG apps – Now that need is even greater. AIM Online Academy is now providing FREE resources and college prep to students!

We have many students now asking about European and Canadian universities – and every year we have almost 35% of our students going to Canada and the UK, and about 2% to Europe. These are phenomenal opportunities! However, funding is not as widely available as in the US so don’t throw it out yet – continue to prepare, work hard as we monitor the situation.