International students dealing with uncertainty as President Trump calls for in-class instruction

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DENVER — President Trump hosted a roundtable a discussion Tuesday to talk about schools returning to in-person instruction in the fall.

“We want to get our schools open. We want to get them open quickly, beautifully in the fall,” President Trump said.

The President was joined by Vice President Mike Pence, the first and second ladies and education experts during the discussion.

They stressed that schools returning to in-class instruction in the fall would allow families to return to work and would allow students to access important services and social-emotional support systems.

“It’s very important for our country, it’s very important for the well-being of our students and parents so we’re going to be putting a lot of pressure on opening the schools in the fall,” President Trump said.

The discussion comes after Vice President Pence held a conference call with governors from across the country, including Gov. Jared Polis, to talk about resuming school safely.

“The Governor shares the goal of schools being open in the fall, and that we all must work together to achieve this goal. Getting kids back to school means that we need to do a good job over the summer of containing the virus. That means hard work from all Coloradans — the state, our health care system, and individual people observing social distance. It will take all of us to continue to suppress the virus,” Governor Polis said in a statement.

Colorado schools preparing for fall

Already, Denver Public Schools has announced its plans to safely reopen in the fall, allowing families to opt for either in-person or online instruction.

Colorado colleges are also keeping a close eye on the COVID-19 pandemic and Colorado’s positive cases as they plan for the fall semester.

Many colleges will be offering both in-person and online courses for students. Some schools, such as the University of Colorado Boulder are planning on allowing students to return to campus until the fall break and then finishing out the semester using online learning.

At Metropolitan State University of Denver, president Janine Davidson says safety is key. The majority of the school’s classes will be offered online during the fall semester.

For the classes that feature in-person instruction, there will be new safety measures, like social distancing and requiring students and staff to wear masks. The school also has a contingency plan in place in case COVID-19 cases start to peak again in Colorado.

“We have to continue on with our lives and for our students they really want to continue to make progress on their degrees, and so we’re doing everything we can to ensure that they can do that,” Davidson said.

MSU Denver offered all of its classes online over the summer and Davidson says there was actually an uptick in enrollment.

Changes for international students

The roundtable discussion stressing the need for students to return to in-person instruction comes one day after Immigration and Customs Enforcement put out new federal guidelines for international students in the U.S.

According to the new rules, international students who take all of their classes online will be forced to leave the country.

The new rules apply to students who hold an F-1 or M-1 non-immigrant visa to attend school in the United States.

“This is a super disappointing announcement. We just found out about it. So, we are reaching out to all of our international students,” Davidson, MSU’s president, said.

Hayoung Nam is one of those students; Nam is a junior at MSU Denver from South Korea who is studying computer information systems.

Nam returned to Seoul in mid-June to stay with her family for a while but now she is unsure of whether she will be able to return to the U.S. in a couple of months to continue her studies.

“Dealing with that is so unfair. I can’t understand why the government wants to do this kind of thing. As an international student, I’m so sad about that,” Nam said.

Nam is one of 11,316 international students on F-1 and M-1 visas studying in Colorado, according to the Colorado Department of Higher Education (CDHE).

At this point, CDHE officials say they do not know the full impacts of COVID-19 on the fall and that there are still a lot of uncertainties they are trying to work through.

“Many international students who were here last year have stayed, but not all. We don’t know how many new freshmen will enroll, nor if they will actually be able to get a visa and travel to the US,” a statement from CDHE read.

Nam is now working with MSU Denver to try to figure out how she can return to school. She says one of the problems with taking all of her classes online from South Korea is the time difference.

“I need to take a full semester in the fall, then I would need to wake up at 4:30 a.m.,” Name said.

Davidson also worries about the mandatory quarantines students will have to face and pay for if they are forced to return to their home countries.

“One of the other effects from this ICE decision is that it sent sort of a chill around the world about studying in America, and we don’t need that to happen. We love our international students. They add so much diversity to the campus. There are fabulous students,” Davidson said. “This is not who we are.”

Denver7 also received statements from other colleges about the ICE ruling.

The vice provost for Colorado State University’s international affairs department, Kathleen Fairfax, wrote:

“We are reviewing the new temporary final rule to understand its implications for our international students. Our international students – 2,034 on-campus last year – are a vital part of our community at Colorado State University, sharing their skills and perspectives on our campuses while gaining the knowledge and experiences that come from studying abroad at this top-performing public research university. Since CSU is planning for hybrid in-person instruction in the Fall we are hopeful that our students’ ability to maintain their student visas will not be adversely impacted. However, CSU is seeking clarification on several points in the guidance and we will update students when we have more information.”

Meanwhile, the President of the University of Colorado wrote:

“The University of Colorado’s four campuses are planning for fall reopening with a hybrid of in-person classes augmented by some remote learning, and we look forward to welcoming our international students back to our campuses. They enrich our campus communities and enhance the diversity of the educational experience for all our students. We are working with our partner higher education associations and institutions to ensure that our international students can continue their educational journeys.”