Michigan Tech faces difficult decisions with new international students policy

With the new ICE policy on international students, Michigan Tech looks for ways to keep their students safe.
Published: Jul. 15, 2020 at 7:47 PM EDT
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At the start of the COVID-19 epidemic, the U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement made exemptions for international students. They would be allowed to stay in the country to complete their studies. Now, however, ICE has altered these conditions. Unless universities decide to hold in-person classes, international students will have to go back to their home country. This presents a conundrum for Michigan Tech, which has a restriction on how many courses international students can take online.

“They are only permitted under the policy to take no more than three credits of online instruction,” explained Kellie Raffaelli, the director for Michigan Tech’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion. “So, the requirement is that they are physically on campus in a face-to-face setting. Those are rules... I don’t know the motivation behind why they chose to not extend the exemption for the fall. But they are just returning to the original rule.”

However, the update does allow for universities to provide a hybrid class system, offering both in-person and online classes, which would allow Michigan Tech to better keep their students safe and international students to remain in the country for their studies. Luckily, Michigan Tech had already planned for such circumstances. The real difficulty is making a plan for if the situation gets worse.

“If, for some reason, the COVID-19 situation in Michigan gets worse and we go back in steps or stages,” Raffaelli elaborated, “per the governor of Michigan, and we need to go onto a fully remote situation, currently Michigan tech administration is working out a plan to accommodate international students and create a face-to-face option for the students, but we don’t have that plan solidified yet.”

The next step is to gather the various campus deans to discuss what can be done. The difficulty will be meeting the needs of the students while also keeping them safe.

“Michigan Tech values our international students and we want them to be able to continue earning their degree here at Michigan Tech, so this is very important to us,” explained Raffaelli. “We responded immediately and we’re working really hard on a solution that’s best for everyone and keeps the students here at Michigan Tech.”

It has not yet been announced why the ICE changed its policy on international students, but we will be on the lookout for updates.

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