The Trump Administration Has Rescinded Restrictions on Online Study for International Students

This afternoon, the Trump administration rescinded its decision to ban international students from remaining in the U.S. while taking online-only classes. This decision comes after dozens of universities and states fought for the decision to be overturned.

Last Sunday, nearly 60 colleges, seven of which are in the Ivy League, filed a brief that, according to Forbes, was “seeking to block a Trump administration rule barring foreign students from remaining in the country” if colleges move their classes entirely online. The brief was filed in support of a Harvard and MIT lawsuit against the Trump administration for the same reason and came after Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) revealed that international students on “nonimmigrant F-1 and M-1 visas” cannot remain in the U.S. if classes are fully online.

In addition to the universities, 17 states, as well as the District of Columbia, joined the battle against the Trump administration. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey called the Trump administration’s decision to not allow international students to return to the U.S. if their classes are all online “senseless.”

According to Reuters, “about 1.1 million foreign students attended U.S. higher education institutions in the 2018-2019 school year.” Out of everyone enrolled in higher education in the U.S. during the 2018-2019 school year, these international students made up about 5.5% of students.

The universities were understandably rattled by the decision, as these 1.1 million international students contributed a total of $41 billion to the U.S. economy in 2019. This amount of money, which is often the result of international students paying full tuition, enables many college staff members to keep their jobs. Without these students, universities would likely endure huge losses.

In the amicus brief, universities condemned how the government’s policy “suddenly and drastically changed.” The brief says this policy shift has “[thrown] amici’s preparations into disarray and [caused] significant harm and turmoil.”

Harvard will be holding classes entirely online this fall, with just 40% of undergraduates granted the opportunity to live on campus. According to the Harvard's admissions statistics page, approximately 12.8% of students admitted to the Class of 2023 were international students. If the Trump administration had refused to budge on its initial decision to bar international students, Harvard would have seen a large portion of their students unable to remain in the U.S. for their education.