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International Students Who Take Only Online Courses This Fall Cannot Stay in the US, ICE Says

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  • On Monday, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced that it will not issue visas to prospective and current international students who will only be taking online courses during the upcoming fall semester.
  • That’s despite the fact that many colleges around the country are integrating online-only models because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • Many international students now fear they could be deported and worry about how they might be able to return home with current travel restrictions. 

International Students Could Face Possible Deportation

The federal Student and Exchange Visitor Program has announced that it will not allow international students to remain in the country for the upcoming fall semester if they enroll in online-only universities or colleges. 

SEVP, a part of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, made the announcement Monday after education institutions had asked the agency for months to extend grace periods for international students into the fall.

It was not unprecedented to think that SEVP might. It had already allowed international students to shift to online classes for the spring semester when much of the U.S. began to shut down. Those eased restrictions then carried into summer semesters.

Prior to those semesters and under normal rules, international students were required to take classes in-person and could only take a maximum of three credit hours (usually one course) online.

With daily COVID-19 cases increasing in most states, some institutions have already announced that they will be foregoing in-person classes in the fall. Despite this, ICE has argued that “there is a need to resume the carefully balanced protections implemented by federal regulations.”

“The U.S. Department of State will not issue visas to students enrolled in schools and/or programs that are fully online for the fall semester nor will U.S. Customs and Border Protection permit these students to enter the United States,” SEVP said in its Monday statement.

“Active students currently in the United States enrolled in such programs must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction, to remain in lawful status. If not, they may face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings.”

“If students find themselves in this situation, they must leave the country or take alternative steps to maintain their nonimmigrant status such as a reduced course load or appropriate medical leave.”

Notably, that announcement also requires universities to make a decision by July 15 on whether they plan to fully open, implement a hybrid system, or become online-only

“What is just, to me, absolutely staggering is we have been asking for this guidance since April,”  Lizbet Boroughs, an executive with the Association of American Universities, told The Washington Post.

Boroughs added that universities now have “nine days to respond. There’s just tremendous concern about trying to protect current students who are members of their communities and their educational investment. ”

Questions Linger About How This Will Take Effect

Online, many international students have spoken out about the announcement, with some even sharing links to petition letters to send to congressional representatives.

“And I thought the cancelled flights, stress of finding last minute summer housing, not being able to see my mom for over a year would be enough,” one person tweeted. “With no support system, in the middle of a pandemic, this is all that was missing.”

“I regret coming here for a better education,” another person said on Twitter. “It’s so cruel to uproot lives in the middle of a pandemic over reasons entirely beyond our control. Everything is so uncertain and I’ve never felt less like a human being.”

The announcement has also led to a flurry of unanswered questions from students and others involved in higher education. For example, students at schools that have already announced online-only semesters for the fall have been left to wonder whether those schools will quickly revise their plans. 

Last week, you had the University of Southern California announced that almost all of its undergraduate fall courses will be held online. Monday, just hours before ICE’s announcement, Harvard announced that all of its courses for the full academic year will be taught online as well. 

In fact, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education, of about 1,100 U.S. colleges being tracked, 9% plan to operate online, and 24% have proposed a hybrid model. 

ICE has confirmed that students planning to enroll in schools with hybrid models will be allowed to take more than three credit hours online if institutions file certifications with the agency. Still, tons of students are scared their visas will be revoked or not approved if their schools don’t revise plans to accommodate them.

Following ICE’s announcement, Harvard University President Larry Bacow called the move a one-size-fits-all approach and suggested that the university might update its online-only policy.

“We will work closely with other colleges and universities around the country to chart a path forward,” Bacow said in a statement Monday evening.

Others worry about the negative impact ICE’s move could have on graduate students who conduct research and teach classes

“If their labs close and they’re not able to work full time on dissertation research… do they have to leave the country?” Boroughs asked in her interview with The Post. “We know there are many PhD candidates who are involved in critical research to respond to this covid pandemic. ”

Even if students are denied visas, many wonder how they will be able to return home. An array of countries currently have travel restrictions, some of which even apply to those with students visas.

Value of Having International Students

Advocates for extending flexibilities for international students into the fall semester have argued that they are a vital asset to American campuses.

According to NAFSA: Association of International Educators, during the 2018-2019 academic year, international students contributed $41 billion to the U.S. economy and supported almost 460,000 jobs.

They are also not part of a small or insignificant group. According to federal data, 1.1 million people in the U.S. hold active student visas.

That’s why people like immigration lawyer Fiona McEntee have argued that losing foreign students would be a huge blow to university budgets. 

“If students can study online successfully from an academic point of view, why are we forcing them to come into a situation where they could put their health at risk and also the health of their classmates at risk?” she asked.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (CBS News)

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Florida Cracks Down on “Vaccine Tourism”

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  • Florida is now requiring that people show proof of either full-time or part-time residency in the state in order to get vaccinated against COVID-19. 
  • The state has been hit with “vaccine tourism” as many people, predominantly wealthy individuals, fly to the state from other parts of the U.S. and abroad just to get the shot. 
  • So far, nearly 41,000 of the 1.3 million doses administered in Florida went to out-of-staters, though it is unclear if all those people were tourists or if this figure includes some part-time residents.

Florida Requires Proof of Residency

Florida is cracking down on “vaccine tourism” and requiring that people show proof of either full-time or part-time residency in the state in order to get a COVID-19 shot.

Previously the state was allowing anyone 65 and older, including non-residents, to get the vaccine. This resulted in people flying to the Sunshine State from across the U.S. and abroad just for the purpose of receiving it. 

According to state data, nearly 41,000 of the 1.3 million doses Florida has administered have gone to out-of-staters. It is unclear if all these out-of-staters are tourists or if this figure includes some part-time residents. 

Now, people must show a form of identification like a driver’s license or mortgage payment to receive it. Exceptions will be made for healthcare workers. 

Vaccine Supply Continues to Be Limited

Wealthy people in particular were quick to schedule travel plans to Florida for this reason. According to the Wall Street Journal, there was an influx of Canadians booking private jets to Florida. Some were looking to book flights there and back on the same day, leaving just enough time for them to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. 

Meanwhile, people in Florida and across the country are waiting in long lines and struggling to book appointments on glitching websites to get their shots. Vaccine supply continues to be incredibly limited and not everyone in high-risk groups have received them.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said this rule is not made to impact snowbirds, people who live in Florida during the winter to escape cold weather up north. 

“They go to doctors here or whatever, that’s fine, DeSantis said, according to CNN. “What we don’t want is tourists, foreigners. We want to put seniors first, but we obviously want to put people that live here first in line.”

See what others are saying: (Wall Street Journal) (CNN) (Travel + Leisure)

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Amanda Gorman Wows the Nation With “The Hill We Climb”

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  • Amanda Gorman, a 22-year-old poet, impressed the nation when she read “The Hill We Climb” at President Biden’s inauguration, making her the youngest inaugural poet in the nation’s history.
  • Gorman’s said the Jan. 6 attack on the nation’s Capitol inspired her to focus on a message of hope, community, and healing in her poem.
  • Big names like Oprah Winfrey, Anderson Cooper, Barack Obama, and Lin-Manuel Miranda have all praised her work.

Amanda Gorman Becomes Youngest Inaugural Poet

Inaugural poet Amanda Gorman wowed the nation on Wednesday as she spoke of healing, unity, hope, and what it means to be American while reading her poem, “The Hill We Climb.”

At 22-years-old Gorman is the youngest inaugural poet in the nation’s history. Born and raised in Los Angeles, she was the youth poet laureate of Los Angeles in 2014 at the age of 16. She then became the first national youth poet laureate in 2017. 

Now, her books are topping Amazon’s Best Sellers list and they are not even scheduled to be released until the fall.

First Lady Dr. Jill Biden became a fan of Gorman after watching her give a reading at the Library of Congress. She then suggested that Gorman be a part of the ceremony. 

“Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true: That even as we grieved, we grew. That even as we hurt, we hoped That even as we tired, we tried,” Gorman recited during inauguration. “That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious. Not because we will never again know defeat but because we will never again sow division.”

Like President Biden, Gorman has struggled with a speech impediment and has been open about her experience overcoming it. She actually used poetry as a tool to correct it. First, she used it as a way of expressing herself without having to speak. Then she used it to bring her poems to life.

“Once I arrived at the point in my life in high school, where I said, ‘you know what? Writing my poems on the page isn’t enough for me,” she told CBS News. “I have to give them breath, and life, I have to perform them as I am.’ That was the moment that I was able to grow past my speech impediment.”

What Inspired “The Hill We Climb”

Gorman said the inaugural committee gave her freedom and flexibility when it came to choosing what to write about. She was well on her way before the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Those events then influenced her writing. 

“It energized me even more to believe that much more firmly in a message of hope, community and healing. I felt like that was the type of poem that I needed to write and it was the type of poem that the country and the world needed to hear,” she told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.  

That message came across clearly and the insurrection was depicted in part of “The Hill We Climb.”

“It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit. It’s the past we step into and how we repair it. We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it, would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy and this effort very nearly succeeded,” she said. “But while democracy can be periodically delayed it can never be permanently defeated. In this truth, in this faith we trust. For while we have our eyes on the future history has its eyes on us.”

Nation Impressed by Gorman

“Wow…Wow, I just, wow you’re awesome,” Cooper said when closing his interview with her. “I am so transfixed.” 

Lin-Manuel Miranda also cheered Gorman on. “The Hill We Climb” notably references a line of scripture that appears in a “Hamilton” song. Gorman also said she used to sing the song “Aaron Burr, Sir” to help her say her R sounds and correct her speech impediment. 

“I have never been prouder to see another young woman rise!” Oprah Winfrey wrote. “Brava Brava Amanda Gorman! Maya Angelou is cheering—and so am I.”

Winfrey also gave Gorman a ring with a caged bird on it—a reference to the famous Angelou poem— which Gorman wore during the inauguration. 

Actor Mark Ruffalo joined the onslaught of praise, saying that her words will lead the nation. 

Former President Barack Obama echoed that idea as well, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Gorman promised to run for president one day. 

See what others are saying: (CBS News) (New York Times) (Los Angeles Times)

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SAT Drops Subject Tests and Optional Essay Section

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  • The College Board will discontinue SAT subject tests effective immediately and will scrap the optional essay section in June. 
  • The organization cited the coronavirus pandemic as part of the reason for accelerating these changes.
  • Regarding subject tests, the College Board said the other half of the decision rested on the fact that Advanced Placement tests are now more accessible to low-income students and students of color, making subject tests unnecessary. 
  • It also said it plans to launch a digital version of the SAT in the near future, despite failing to implement such a plan last year after a previous announcement.

College Board Ends Subject Tests and Optional Essay

College Board announced Tuesday that it will scrap the SAT’s optional essay section, as well as subject tests.

Officials at the organization cited the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the reason for these changes, saying is has “accelerated a process already underway at the College Board to simplify our work and reduce demands on students.”

The decision was also made in part because Advanced Placement tests, which College Board also administers, are now available to more low-income students and students of color. Thus, College Board has said this makes SAT subject tests unnecessary. 

While subject tests will be phased out for international students, they have been discontinued effective immediately in the U.S. 

Regarding the optional essay, College Board said high school students are now able to express their writing skills in a variety of ways, a factor which has made the essay section less necessary.

With several exceptions, it will be discontinued in June.

The Board Will Implement an Online SAT Test

In its announcement, College Board also said it plans to launch a revised version of the SAT that’s aimed at making it “more flexible” and “streamlined” for students to take the test online.

In April 2020, College Board announced it would be launching a digital SAT test in the fall if schools didn’t reopen. The College Board then backtracked on its plans for a digital test in June, before many schools even decided they would remain closed.

According to College Board, technological challenges led to the decision to postpone that plan.

For now, no other details about the current plan have been released, though more are expected to be revealed in April. 

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (The New York Times)

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