SEPV asks colleges to open more online courses for international students among coronavirus outbreak

indica News Bureau-

To make things easier for international students amid the coronavirus outbreak, a federal program overseeing international students in the U.S. said it will be flexible with its oversight requirements as the global coronavirus outbreak causes colleges to make classes remote.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) sent participating colleges and universities the guidance on Monday. It expands schools’ options for using online education to keep these students on track in the event classes are offered remotely, reported Education Dive.

The number of online courses international students can take is generally restricted but the new guidance system will help to ensure those students could stay in their classes as more institutions take programs online in an effort to stem the spread of COVID-19.

A number of reputed colleges like Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, Hofstra and Ohio State universities, along with the University of Washington and Smith and Amherst colleges, have moved their classes online temporarily in a bid to keep the virus from spreading. More institutions are likely to follow the same pattern till such time the pandemic continues. .

SEVP is asking schools to inform them if they change how they deliver courses to international student visa holders, and to include details on how the school plans to keep tabs on these students.

The program “is focused on ensuring that nonimmigrant students are able to continue to make normal progress in a full course of study as required by federal regulations,” it said in a message to schools this week.

International students are an important prospect pool for colleges because they typically pay full tuition and help to raise institutions’ global profiles. Some observers are worried the current coronavirus outbreak, which has closed college admissions testing centers in China and disrupted travel globally, could limit their options to attend U.S. institutions. Around one-third of international students in the U.S. hail from China.

An ICE spokesperson told Education Dive in an email Tuesday that schools must notify SEVP of the changes within 10 days of implementing them. The program will update the guidance as necessary.

Other federal agencies have been loosening rules for how colleges can use remote instruction.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Education expanded options for colleges to use distance learning technologies if their classes cannot meet due to the coronavirus — so long as instructors maintain sufficient contact with students. Its guidance lets colleges make such changes without going through the department’s typical approval process, and it lets accreditors waive certain requirements.