SALT LAKE CITY – International students face an uncertain future as many universities make a move to online learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
This week, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced people in the country on a student visa must return to their home nation if they take all of their fall 2020 classes online.
This rule could have a large impact on the University of Utah. Of the university’s 32,000 students, about 3,000 are in the United States on a student visa.
“Ideally, the University of Utah is built to bring people together,” said Christopher Nelson, a spokesperson for the university. “One of the reasons international students are so important, it provides our local students with a diverse experience and an inclusive experience.”
Currently, the university is planning for a mix of virtual classes and on campus courses. That bodes well for international students who will not be forced to leave the country if they take at least one class in-person.
“Certainly, a great deal of concern on campus for our international students,” Nelson said. “We’ll do everything we can under the law to make sure their education experience is not interrupted.”
Administrators are working with department heads to make sure enough classes will be held in-person to create adequate options for international students but there is no guarantee every student will be accommodated.
As educators scramble to put together their plans and course schedule for the fall 2020 term, international students are waiting and wondering what’s next.
“My heart goes out to an international student who is trying to plan his or her life,” Nelson said.