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Trump admin. rescinds rule barring international students from taking only online classes

Trump admin. rescinds rule barring international students from taking only online classes

Fuller Theological Seminary of Pasadena, California. | Courtesy Fuller Theological Seminary

UPDATE: 4 p.m. ET July 14: The Trump administration has agreed to rescind a new policy announced last week that could’ve forced international college students on F1 visas to leave the United States if their schools are not offering in-person classes in the fall. 

U.S. District Judge Allison D. Burroughs in Massachusetts announced Tuesday that the administration has reached a settlement in a lawsuit filed by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology seeking to block the rule. 

According to The Wall Street Journal, Burroughs confirmed that the government will rescind the policy and withdraw a related frequently-asked-questions document.

The settlement was praised by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, one of several faith-based organizations that voiced opposition to the rule. 

“Their proposal lacked compassion and fell short of American ideals,” InterVarsity President Tom Lin said in a statement. 

Original:

After announcing that all fall courses at its Pasadena campus will be online, Fuller Theological Seminary in California expressed a willingness Monday to alter plans for the fall semester so that international students won’t be required to leave the United States under a federal rule.

In a statement, the evangelical institution voiced its opposition to a new Immigration and Customs Enforcement rule announced last week that impacts the Student and Exchange Visitor Program. 

The rule, which has been opposed by several education groups, universities and faith-based organizations, requires international students to either leave the U.S. or transfer schools if they are enrolled at institutions that will have only online classes in the fall.

Fuller, which was founded in 1947 and has over 2,600 students enrolled, vowed in its statement to do “everything” within its power to “develop plans for the fall quarter that will enable our international students to fulfill their visa requirements and remain in the U.S. to continue their studies.” 

Fuller is waiting on specifics of rules from the Department of Homeland Security to know “which legal parameters must be satisfied.”

 “The Department of Homeland Security has added more burdensome requirements to international students amidst a global pandemic that not only compounds uncertainty but puts students at risk — simply because their educational institutions were forced to move classes online in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the statement from the institution reads.

Under the new rule, international students already in the U.S. must either depart the country or transfer to a school where there will be in-person instruction to maintain their lawful status. Students who do not obey the order may face removal proceedings.  

In late May, Fuller announced that all fall quarter courses on the Pasadena campus would be done “fully online.” 

At the time, Fuller explained that administrators were exploring options for limited in-person classes at its regional campuses in Arizona and Texas but could not guarantee that such classes would be possible. Chances for in-person classes in Houston or Phoenix this fall might be in jeopardy as both Arizona and Texas have seen spikes in infections in recent weeks, but not a rise in deaths. 

Fuller stressed in May that it would remain “cautious” in its approach. The school stressed that it did not want to reopen prematurely, risk public health and then have to deal with a second coronavirus outbreak that would require a shift back to online classes. 

Fuller’s statement Monday reiterated the school’s support for its international body, calling it one of the “distinguishing” factors of the university. 

“These international students contribute in immeasurable ways to our community and our mission in the world and deepen our understanding of theology, missiology, and psychology,” the Fuller statement stresses. “When they leave Fuller, they expand our reach around the world as scholars and practitioners whose work we continue to support. Fuller is a far better institution because of our international students.”

Fuller’s announcement on Monday comes as the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, an educational association of which Fuller is a member of, is lobbying officials at the Department of Education for changes to the new policies.

CCCU President Shirley Hoogstra signed onto a letter last week led by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and also signed by leaders of several other Christian organizations sent to Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf.

The letter argued that requiring international students to leave the country just because their education this fall will be done entirely online could cause them “financial disruption” as they have paid tuition, secured housing, and incurred other costs. 

“Through no fault of their own, their universities and colleges have moved exclusively to on-line courses this fall to restrain the spread of COVID-19,” the July 10 letter reads.

Fuller is monitoring the lawsuits filed by universities and states seeking to block the rule as some critics have accused President Donald Trump of using international students as a political issue to urge universities to reopen on-campus classes. 

“Whatever the outcome of these efforts by the CCCU and the pending litigation, Fuller will work toward protecting our international students and their ability to remain in the U.S.,” Fuller declared Monday.

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