WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - International students across the country will have to leave the country if their university switches to online instruction.
New rules announced this week by ICE state that no visas will be issued to students in programs that are only offering online classes.
Anamo Kisho is one of 176 international students at UNCW that could be impacted by the new guidelines. Kisho is 7,000 miles away from his home in Ethiopia. He has spent the last two years in Wilmington working to get a degree in computer science.
His dream is to achieve a masters in cybersecurity. Kisho says his home country doesn’t have many opportunities to learn the field.
“I came here to get a better opportunity. Back home it didn’t offer me that much to get me a better education...to get some opportunities,” explains Kisho.
Kisho says he was shocked to hear that new ICE rules could derail his education.
“That was scary. I was terrified. When most of international students come here, they want to finish school here...at least get to graduation,” said Kisho.
He is able to stay in Wilmington because UNCW is taking a hybrid approach this fall, offering some classes in person. But, if the area sees a spike in coronavirus cases and has to shift to online classes again, Kisho would have to go back home.
While many of his classmates would be able to still complete their coursework from home, online classes wouldn’t be an option for Kisho.
“It’s just waiting to see what will happen,” said Kisho. “What I’m worried about is if I go back home I wont be able to take online classes because no reliable internet connection. Right now with some unrest, the internet connection is cut off. It would be difficult to take classes. Most of us are in the middle of what to do.”
International students not enrolled in classes full time could also lose their student status and be forced to go through the visa process again, with no guarantees they would regain it.
Though the future is uncertain, Kisho says he’s thankful for his friends at the university.
“UNCW is on our side helping us get through this time and I’m very grateful.”
The university passed along a statement Thursday night explaining how important the students are to the fabric of the UNCW community and the potential impact for many international students. Furthermore, UNCW says they are collaborating with the UNC System and its congressional delegation to advocate for a policy change.
You can read the full letter below.
“Dear Seahawk Community:
UNCW deeply values our international students and the global perspectives they bring to our campus community. As our strategic vision indicates, UNCW “will be recognized for excellence in everything it does, for its global mindset, and for its community engagement.” A recent announcement by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has the potential to derail international students’ academic progress at UNCW and degrade the university’s relationships with partner universities around the world.
Under the new federal guidelines, international students who are enrolled at universities operating in a completely online status for fall 2020 will not be granted visas to enter or remain in the United States. The guidelines permit international students to obtain or retain F-1 visa status for hybrid academic programs that combine in-person and online instruction.
These guidelines, announced during a global pandemic, have made a difficult time even more challenging for our international students. As a university, we are dedicated to doing all we can to support our international students and their commitment to continue their education at UNCW. Fortunately, UNCW is currently deemed a “hybrid school” under the most recent guidance, which means our planned mixture of in-person, online and hybrid courses will permit our international student population to continue to study with us as long as they take at least one face-to-face or designated hybrid course in the Fall 2020 term.
If UNCW were required to move to fully online instruction at any point in the Fall 2020 term, we will use all available measures to enable international students to remain on campus. However, there is the possibility that students would be required to leave the U.S. and continue their UNCW courses online elsewhere.
UNCW also is collaborating with the UNC System and its Congressional delegation, as well as other higher education organizations and partners, to advocate for a policy that is more supportive of international students, both on our campus and at colleges and universities across North Carolina and the United States.
At this time, the UNCW Office of International Programs has already reached out to the students on an F-1 visa who could be affected by this policy change to ensure they have the information they need to register for courses that are compliant with the current regulations. The office has connected with academic advisors to apprise them of the situation as well. International students should monitor their campus inboxes for additional information from OIP and reach out to email@example.com with questions.
We will continue to closely monitor this situation and share updates with the campus community as we learn more. As always, we want our international students to know that we believe “once a Seahawk, always a Seahawk,” and your campus community will be here for you during these trying times.
Jose V. Sartarelli Chancellor
James j. Winebrake Provost”