International students in jeopardy if universities decide to go online-only

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MISSISSIPPI STATE UNIVERSITY, Miss. (WCBI) – In a news release Monday, the U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency stated that international students “may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States.”

Mississippi State University has plans to open its campus up to in-person classes on August 17th.

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The university will operate under a new hybrid model– Offering some classes on campus, and some online.

If the state or federal government forces Universities to go fully online, that won’t be good for some international students.

MSU says it is working hard to keep those students affected in Starkville.

“We want to make sure our international students stay, and that we’re doing everything we can do as a university to make them feel comfortable, safe, secure in their status here at Mississippi State University in Starkville,” said Dr. Julie Jordan.

Jordan is the Interim Vice President for Research and Economic Development at Mississippi State University.

She said her office has heard from several concerned students since Monday’s ruling.

“Obviously it makes them nervous. I’m sure they’re all very anxious. Our offices have received any number of calls this morning from students and emails from students, as well as from faculty who work very closely with them, so everybody is concerned about this since it happened yesterday,” said Jordan.

She said right now, international students attending MSU should be able to remain in the U.S.

“Mississippi State plans to be fully open. On August 17th, classes will resume. They won’t look like they did. Most of them… Some of them will be online, some will be in person, experiential classes will likely still be in person with reduced density, with smaller numbers of students, and some of the classes will be hybrid. That means part online and part in person,” said Jordan.

Dr. Jordan said the only way students at MSU will be affected is if the university is forced to go fully online.

“If we are announcing that we are in fully online-only mode, then those students will have to return to their home countries,” said Jordan.

The loss of international students is sure to have an economic impact on not just Starkville, but the entire country.

“International students are paying tuition at the non-resident tuition rate, which is significantly higher than the in-state resident tuition. So, they buy homes or they rent apartments, and they buy food, and they go to the grocery store, so the hundreds of thousands of international students that this would impact across the country is significant,” said Jordan.

–Not to mention a personal impact on each student.

“Some of them have dependants here. They brought their families with them. It affects their families. Clearly, if they… they have a job. If they’re a graduate assistant, they’re here. They have a job. They’re working on their PH.D. If they go home, that all goes away,” said Jordan.

Dr. Jordan said MSU is working to communicate with the students and faculty regarding the matter, and she offered this direct message to those affected.

“We will give answers, and we want you to be on this campus, and we want you to feel safe and secure, and we want to do everything possible to make that happen,” stated Jordan.

Since MSU is offering both online and in-person classes, they will have to inform the Student and Exchange Visitor Program and then reissue I-20s for every single student with a note stating that the school is operating in the hybrid model for the fall.

At least one face-to-face course will be required for international students.

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