As COVID-19 infections continue to increase across the United States, many universities are considering online-only instruction for the fall to help slow the pandemic’s spread.
So for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to announce Monday that, in the upcoming semester, international students “attending schools operating entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States” is deeply troubling.
First, as a former international student, I know just succeeding in a different academic culture can be challenging — and that’s on top of the initial complex visa applications and ongoing steep tuition fees. For ICE to now suggest these students are not welcome is just cruel.
But ICE’s policy is also dangerous for Iowa City and its residents. The University of Iowa must provide its 2,500 international students with in-person classes this semester, regardless of the latest COVID-19 public health guidance. This puts other students, faculty, staff — and everyone they interact with — at greater risk too.
But if to reduce the risk UI goes online-only then the international students will have to leave — along with their tuition money. Funding for Iowa’s public universities is already declining, so one fears this will result in job losses among UI staff — not to mention at the local small businesses that rely on student spending too.
There are no good reasons for ICE’s international student rule change. Our elected representatives must prioritize the health and economic prosperity of Eastern Iowa and block its implementation.
Alexander Paul Shantz