President Donald Trump’s administration agreed Tuesday to rescind its controversial rule barring international students from living in the USA while taking fall classes online, a sharp reversal after the White House faced lawsuits challenging the policy.
A Massachusetts judge announced the decision during a federal court hearing. Judge Allison Burroughs said the universities’ request for the court to block the rule was moot because the government agreed to rescind the policy.
Monday, 18 state attorney generals had sued the Department of Homeland Security over the rule, which would have forced foreign students to leave or face deportation if they were enrolled in only online classes this fall when experts fear expanded outbreaks of COVID-19 cases.
“We will continue, during this unprecedented time of the global pandemic, to be vigilant against efforts by the administration to harm international students or force universities into rushed and unreasonable decisions regarding in-person instruction,” said Mary Sue Coleman, president of the Association of American Universities, a group of research universities.
The court said the Trump administration agreed to revert to a previous rule, implemented in March when the coronavirus pandemic caused shutdowns across the country. Under that policy, international students were allowed to attend all classes online during the pandemic.
Last week’s shift enraged many educators and lawmakers, who said the policy threatened to upend careful planning by universities and the approximately 1 million foreign students who attend American colleges each year. Even as they celebrated the change, some higher education leaders struck back at the Trump administration.
“We thought the original rules that were suggested were cruel and misguided and didn’t serve our universities, didn’t serve our students, and frankly didn’t serve our country,” Leebron said.
According to another source, the White House is now focused on having the rule apply only to new students, rather than students already in the US. The White House declined to comment on an ongoing policy process.