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Michigan schools, international students look for "clarity and guidance" on new immigration rule

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

Michigan colleges and universities are scrambling to figure out what a new federal government rule means for their international students.

That comes after the government’s announcement this week that the government will no longer issue student visas to foreign students whose universities go to online-only classes.

Krista McCallum Beatty, director of Michigan State University’s Office for International Students and Scholars, was a guest on Stateside on Tuesday.

Beatty said MSU plans on doing a hybrid model when school resumes in the fall—part online, part in-person. She said that to retain their visas, international students will need to take some in-person courses.

“But it looks like they will have more flexibility than usual in terms of the number of online courses they count toward maintaining their immigration status,” Beatty said.

Beatty said international students are now looking for “clarity and guidance.”

“They’re just looking for answers about, ‘ok, what do I need to do to maintain my immigration status and continue to progress toward completing my degree?’” she said.

Beatty said what’s not clear is what will happen if after resuming classes in the fall, schools are forced to go online-only due to the changing situation with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The University of Michigan also plans on a hybrid model. U of M put out a statement denouncing the new immigration rule on Tuesday. It reads, in part:

Given the poorly controlled nature of the COVID-19 pandemic in many places across our nation, institutions of higher education need to maintain flexibility in how we choose to safely deliver our curricula. Our international students must not be penalized if our best judgments dictate that we need to return to fully remote instruction. We continue to oppose arbitrary restrictions on international students who have been and continue to be valuable members of our community of scholars. Even with this initial review that shows a less direct impact on our students, we agree with the statement from the Association of American Universities – of which U-M is a member – that calls this policy “immensely misguided and deeply cruel to the tens of thousands of international students who come to the United States every year.”

Michigan colleges and universities hosted more than 33,000 international students in 2019.

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Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Radio in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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