While a recent decision eliminated some hurdles for University of Nebraska international students, much is still up in the air about how they will return this fall.
On July 14, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement reversed its ruling that international students could not return or remain in the U.S. if they had online-only classes. The decision followed a lawsuit from Harvard and MIT, which 59 additional colleges and universities, including the University of Nebraska, voiced support for in an amicus brief.
NU President Ted Carter and campus chancellors voiced support for the university’s international students and what they contribute to the university.
“International students contribute enormously to the academic, cultural, social and economic fabric of our campuses and communities,” Carter said in a statement. “Here at the University of Nebraska, the chancellors and I will continue to do all we can to support our international students as they continue their educational journeys. We are fortunate to have them as part of our university family.”
While the decision eased some fears of international students having to return home if classes moved online, there are still many other hurdles these students face, said Tracy Falconer, assistant director of International Education at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.
Some international students may need to renew their visas, which isn’t possible in the many countries where consulates remain closed, Falconer said. New incoming international students face the same problem of not being able to set up appointments to obtain a visa.
“Our main concern right now is, are our new students going to be able to get here because of consulates being closed and these appointments not being able to be made,” she said.
Marco Cuaran Guerrero, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln sophomore economics and finance major from Colombia, said his main concern is any further changes to ICE’s guidelines for international students.
He stayed in Lincoln over the summer, but said he worries about having to return to Colombia if classes go online and then having his visa canceled. He said other international students are worried about the same thing since they made plans to be in Nebraska for the fall and have signed leases.
Another major concern is the financial struggles international students have faced, Falconer said. International students who worked on campus have lost their jobs and aren’t eligible to work off-campus. These students also aren’t able to receive stimulus payment or unemployment, and their family back home may have been hit hard as well.
“Just like all of our financial situations that have been created by the pandemic, these are going to be long-lasting and far-reaching and so it’s going to take a while to recover financially for a lot of these students and their families,” Falconer said.
Cuaran Guerrero said that with international students adding to the U.S. economy, it doesn’t make sense that the government would ask them to leave.
“I just hope that the policy that has changed, the ICE policy, remains and that we can stay here,” he said.
Cuaran Guerrero and Falconer said the university has done a good job of showing its support for international students as they navigate this confusing time.
“It’s been nice to see the level of support that the University of Nebraska system has given to international students,” Falconer said. “It’s just been very heartwarming and a very positive thing for the university to do for the international students. I think it shows the support that the state has, and the universities have for our students, and it shows our students the importance that we place on them being here.”