West Virginia University is speaking out against the Trump administration’s push to bar from the U.S. foreign college students who don’t take at least one in-person course.
In a Friday news release, WVU expressed concern about what might happen if it must return to online-only instruction — even if that shift occurs in the middle of an academic year.
“As it is written, the guidance would require WVU to notify the Department of Homeland Security of the change in course delivery,” the university said, “and international students would, at that time, be required to depart the United States.”
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which announced the rule, didn’t return a request for comment Friday afternoon.
Henry Oliver, global advancement director at WVU, said he expects the school to have around 1,400 to 1,500 international students in the upcoming academic year. He said the vast majority of those hold the F-1 visas that the rule would endanger; J-1s aren’t affected.
Oliver noted expulsion from America could harm students who have already signed leases, atop erasing benefits of living in the U.S., including improving English speaking.
“There’s a lot of learning that takes place outside of a classroom, even in a nontraditional learning sense,” he said.
He also raised concern that foreign students could have trouble learning from a live online class that was scheduled around students in a much different time zone.
And “beyond the actual limitations, these leave really broad impressions toward people about the hospitableness of the U.S.”
He said he couldn’t calculate Friday the possible financial impact of the rule, which could lead to foreign students leaving WVU completely.
Harvard University and other schools are suing to block the rule, but WVU hasn’t yet joined them. Oliver said WVU is lobbying against it.
In March, the university switched almost all of its classes to online-only due to the pandemic.
Early last month, it announced plans to restart on-campus instruction in August with a mix of in-person and online classes.
But, within the last two weeks, WVU has seen some of the limited number of students still on its campuses this summer test positive, and Monongalia County more broadly saw a 62% surge over a five-day period, according to the county health department.
Oliver noted the poor timing of the rule, with many universities set to start classes in a month.
WVU’s Office of Global Affairs is currently reviewing foreign students’ course schedules to ensure that they take at least one three-credit-hour, in-person course, WVU said.