International students whose colleges are holding classes online-only this fall must either leave the country or face deportation, Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced Monday.
The move could affect thousands of students across the United States, and dozens who attend Clark College.
“We know it causes angst and uncertainty, and we’re concerned about this ruling,” college spokeswoman Kelly Love said.
ICE, which oversees the Student and Exchange Visitor Program, announced this week that international students can only remain in the country if some of their coursework is conducted in person. There are existing requirements that international students take classes in person, but those rules were eased as schools across the United States went online-only in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
While some colleges, including Washington State University, have announced they will return to campus in the fall at limited capacity, other schools are opting to continue their online programs.
The Trump administration’s announcement drew swift rebuke from educators; Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on Wednesday sued over the guidance.
Clark College alerted its roughly 65 international students of the guidance on Tuesday, saying officials would reach out to each student individually to determine how they might be affected by the rule.
“Please know that we are here to advocate for you,” officials from the college’s International Programs office wrote. “We share your concerns and are working hard to support you during these challenging times.”
Clark College announced it will remain online through the fall, except for a limited number of vocational programs that require hands-on lab classes, such as auto mechanics and culinary arts.
The proclamation by ICE appears to prohibit students from remaining in the United States if they aren’t in a program that has some hands-on coursework; colleges must certify to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program that students on nonimmigrant visas are not taking all their classes online.
Students at Washington State University Vancouver are unlikely to be affected, college spokeswoman Brenda Alling said. The university is moving to a hybrid model; in-person classes must be restricted at 50 people or fewer, and students will be required to wear masks and sit 6 feet apart from each other.
WSU Vancouver had 89 international students on campus in spring 2019, the latest available data from the university’s institutional research office.
The Trump administration is increasingly pressuring schools at all levels to reopen at full capacity in the fall, despite ongoing concerns about the spread of COVID-19. Public schools have until two weeks before the start of school to announce their plans for a safe return to class.