KATHMANDU, July 7: Thousands of Nepali students will be impacted by the new guidelines issued by the federal immigration authorities of the United States on Monday that say international students must take classes in person to stay in the country legally.
A news release issued by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said that “students who fall under certain visas may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States”. It also stated that “the U.S. Department of State will not issue visas to students enrolled in schools and/or programs that are fully online for neither the fall semester nor will U.S. Customs and Border Protection authorize these students to enter the United States.”
This new rule has left Nepali students attending academic classes in universities in the US and also individuals who are pursuing non-academic or vocational studies with a risk of being suddenly deported or forced to transfer to other colleges.
The United States has remained one of the most preferred destinations for further education for Nepali students from the very beginning. Currently there are over 14,000 Nepali students enrolled in various universities across the US and the implication of this law shall be a direct threat to these students.
The 2019 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange data released by the Institute of International Education and US Department of State Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs showed that Nepal ranked 12th in terms of the number of both undergraduate and graduate students studying in the US with a total of 13,229 students. More than 2,000 Nepali students enroll in educational institutions across the country every year. Nearly 1.1 million international students are enrolled in educational institutions across the U.S.
Universities were already expecting sharp decreases in international enrollments due to the pandemic, but losing all international students could be devastating for many of these institutions as they depend on the tuition revenue from foreign students who pay higher tuition rates.
Although these recent guidelines issued by IEC put additional pressure on universities to reopen even amid growing concerns about the spread of COVID-19, it seems nearly impossible for universities to completely get back to physical classes considering the growing number of cases across the country.
Dozens of colleges across the United States have started planning to offer at least some classes in person after being shut for months, but many still believe it’s too risky to reopen amidst the mounting cases of COVID-19.