A decision by United States (US) federal immigration authorities to revoke the visas of international students whose colleges offer only online courses this fall have left Jamaicans studying in America worried about their educational and financial future.
“Many students have already paid their lease or rent for next year,” Pascal Lindsay, University of South Florida mechanical engineering student told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.
“If the college decides to go completely online we will be paying for empty rooms for a year,” he said, adding that, on average, rent ranges from US$600 to US$900 per month. “So it’s a serious expense that is going to affect us greatly.”
Lindsay said if his university decides to not keep face-to-face classes then international students will have no claim to be in the US.
He also expressed concern for those students who need to stay in the US now during the holidays because of their circumstances at home.
According to Lindsay, University of South Florida announced a few weeks ago that it would be running a hybrid programme, meaning that some classes would be conducted face-to-face while others would be held online.
“They said if the class is small, about 30 students, they will hold it in an auditorium where they can observe social distancing. If it’s a large class, 100 students, that class will be put online,” he told the Observer.
However, the new guidelines issued on Monday, he said, will determine what classes students choose.
“So if you want to get your degree done quickly and you say ‘let me get these classes off’ you can no longer pick all of those classes because they might make your visa invalid. So we are waiting very anxiously for a response to the current guideline,” Lindsay said.
The guidelines issued by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) place additional pressure on campuses to reopen, even amid growing concerns about the recent spread of COVID-19 among young adults. Colleges received the guidance the same day that some schools, including Harvard University, announced that all instruction will be offered remotely.
US President Donald Trump has insisted that schools and universities return to face-to-face instruction as soon as possible. After the guidance was released, Trump repeated on Twitter that schools must reopen this fall.