Earlier this week, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released a preliminary announcement about online study eligibility for international students for the fall 2020 semester. The University of Michigan has issued a statement expressing its strong disagreement with this temporary policy, as have we at the College of Engineering. The University’s government relations office in Washington, D.C., also is advocating to Congress and the administration through the Association of American Universities and other organizations.
Let me state clearly that I join our leaders and those in higher education across the country in strongly opposing this and other new directives that have the potential to disrupt the education of our international students. Our international students, faculty and staff are a critical component of our global community, and we stand in solidarity with them through these troubling times.
Late yesterday, we sent this email to all current and incoming international students to provide them information about the policy, and how it may affect them. Although there is still much uncertainty, the initial assessment looks promising.
Because the University is planning a public health-informed in-residence fall semester, many current Michigan Engineering international students on the Ann Arbor campus will be able to maintain their F-1 status through a mixture of in-person, remote, and hybrid classes. Additionally, students outside the country who are not in F-1 status should be able to take our classes online, and those on full-time, post-completion OPT should not be directly affected.
The policy states that international students must depart the U.S. (or transfer to other schools) if their enrolling institution changes its operational stance mid-semester and transitions to online-only instruction. According to the International Center, it is believed that this would apply to the University of Michigan only if we transition to online-only instruction at some point prior to 30 November, the date when remote instruction is scheduled to begin for everyone. The only scenario in which we would make such a switch is if we have severe COVID occurrence in our community and it is deemed absolutely necessary.
Planning our courses to make a robust mix of in-person, hybrid and remote experiences will be important to helping our international students succeed. I greatly appreciate your work in this, and the consideration of how best to design educational experiences that serve our entire community of learners. The Registrar’s office will be coding courses and sections to allow students to determine whether or not a particular course is considered to be in-person, mixed (hybrid) or online. Students will be able to adjust course schedules in early- to mid-August, taking this new model and immigration requirements into account.
The University is continuing to sort out all the details so that we can provide clearer guidance. Please check the International Center’s website for updates as this progresses. In the meantime, please reach out to your international students and let them know they are not alone – we are working hard on their behalf, and will do everything in our power to ensure they can continue their studies as Wolverines at Michigan Engineering.