Evansville universities respond to new federal guidelines regarding international students

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EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT/AP) — New federal guidelines are having an impact on Tri-State schools and students this fall.

The guidelines say international students will be forced to leave the U.S. or transfer to another college if their schools offer classes entirely online.

The University of Southern Indiana says the new guidelines add one more challenge in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under the updated rules, international students must take at least some of their classes in person. For colleges offering a mix of in-person and online courses this fall, international students will be barred from taking all their classes online.

USI says it made adjustments to their fall class schedule that impacted the mix of in-person and online classes and are now looking at those adjustments with a goal of supporting international students.

“We are beginning to assess the impact of these adjustments on the Fall 2020 schedules of our international students and will provide the necessary support for these students to ensure that they meet requirements related to their student visa,” USI said in a statement.

The restrictions for Fall 2020 stipulate that:

  1. Students attending schools operating entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States.
  2. Students attending schools operating under normal in-person classes are bound by existing federal regulations stating that students may take a maximum of one class or three credit hours online.
  3. Students attending schools adopting a hybrid model—that is, a mixture of online and in person classes—will be allowed to take more than one class or three credit hours online. These schools must certify that the student’s program is not entirely online, that the student is not taking an entirely online course load this semester, and that the student is taking the minimum number of online classes required to make normal progress in their degree program.

At the University of Evansville, president Christopher M. Pietruszkiewicz says they plan to be in the third category with a hybrid mix of in-person and online classes in the fall.

“As a result, our international students at UE can remain in the country on student visas as long as they are enrolled in at least one in-person or hybrid course. Our international students are an integral part of our university community, and at this time, we have every intention of continuing to provide face-to-face and hybrid courses in the fall, ensuring that our international students can continue their studies at UE without any interruption,” Pietruszkiewicz said. “Should circumstances in the future change, we are committed to working with our international students to minimize the impact of these restrictions.”

Full statement from the University of Evansville:

Dear Students,

We want to keep you informed about some new guidelines that impact our international student population. The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)—the Department of Homeland Security program that provides approval and oversight to universities enrolling international students—has issued new restrictions regarding international students on F-1 visas and online instruction. These restrictions for Fall 2020 stipulate that:

1. Students attending schools operating entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States.

2. Students attending schools operating under normal in-person classes are bound by existing federal regulations stating that students may take a maximum of one class or three credit hours online.

3. Students attending schools adopting a hybrid model—that is, a mixture of online and in person classes—will be allowed to take more than one class or three credit hours online. These schools must certify that the student’s program is not entirely online, that the student is not taking an entirely online course load this semester, and that the student is taking the minimum number of online classes required to make normal progress in their degree program.

According to the definitions provided, the University of Evansville currently plans to be in the third category, “schools adopting a hybrid model.” As a result, our international students at UE can remain in the country on student visas as long as they are enrolled in at least one in-person or hybrid course. Our international students are an integral part of our university community, and at this time, we have every intention of continuing to provide face-to-face and hybrid courses in the fall, ensuring that our international students can continue their studies at UE without any interruption.  Should circumstances in the future change, we are committed to working with our international students to minimize the impact of these restrictions. Our international students are an essential part of the fabric of the University of Evansville, and we will continue to advocate for the elimination of these restrictions. Of course, international students who decide to remain in their home countries at this time can enroll in a variety of online courses and still remain full-time UE students.

At UE, we empower each student to think critically, act bravely, serve responsibly, and live meaningfully in a changing world.  We look forward to continuing to provide that transformative learning environment for all of our students.

Christopher M. Pietruszkiewicz, UE president

Full statement from the University of Southern Indiana:

“This is an additional source of anxiety for our international students, who are here to obtain a high-quality education. The announcement adds to our list of challenges for the next academic year as we adapt to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.  However, we are committed to the promise of a quality educational experience for all students who decided to pursue an academic program at the University of Southern Indiana, and are doing everything we can to make our international students feel safe and supported.

In our response to safety concerns arising from COVID-19, we made adjustments to the Fall 2020 class schedule that impacted the mix of in-person and online courses. We are beginning to assess the impact of these adjustments on the Fall 2020 schedules of our international students and will provide the necessary support for these students to ensure that they meet requirements related to their student visa.”

USI Statement

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(This story was originally published on July 10, 2020)

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