UM opposes deportation threat of foriegn students taking online classes

The University of Montana will stand with those opposed to new regulations issued by the Trump administration that could force international students to leave the country if their school moves to online instruction due to COVID-19.

In an official response issued after the July 6 guidelines, UM said it has chosen a hybrid model for the fall semester, which will give international students the flexibility needed to take at least one in-classroom course. The school will not limit the number of online courses an international student can take.

Around 150 international students are enrolled at UM.

“The university is committed to ensuring international students will have in-person options so students will be allowed to stay in the U.S., even if much of campus must close due to COVID-19 at some point during the fall semester,” UM officials said. “We stand with those who are speaking out against these new regulations.”

The guidelines, issued last week by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, came as a surprise to higher education leaders who are planning for the fall and winter semesters and how their schools will deal with campus safety amid the pandemic.

Other schools have already shifted to online instruction, a move that could impact thousands of international students under Trump’s new guidelines. Both Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have sued the Trump administration over the issue.

Under the new guidelines, international students attending U.S schools that switch to online classes will be required to leave or risk violating their visa status. At least part of their courses must take place in person if they wish to stay.

Donna Anderson, the senior international officer and director of global engagement at UM said changes to the Student Exchange Visitor Program, or SEVP, has the potential to impact 150 international students at the University of Montana.

“Our International Students & Scholars office had no fewer than 50 emails awaiting them last Tuesday morning,” said Anderson. “There’s lots of anxiety among our international students even though we plan a hybrid return for fall 2020.”

Anderson last week’s response from UM was combined with a live chat session on Zoom to help the school’s international students “feel heard, supported, and reassured that UM will do everything they can to help keep them in status and progressing toward their degrees this fall.”

The university said there are other outstanding factors to consider with the new guidelines, and the International Students & Scholars Office is working to address those concerns.

“The University of Montana has chosen a hybrid model for fall instruction, which offers flexibility for international students who are on campus,” the school said. “Students will not have limits on the number of online courses they take as long as they are registered for at least 1 face-to-face course.”