BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — After receiving pressure from universities and businesses around the country, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) modified the temporary exemption of international students. 

What You Need To Know

  • ICE modifies temporary exemption of international students

  • International students at WKU must arrive on campus two weeks early to quarantine

  • WKU will have a hybrid structure this fall with some classes online and in person

  • The university is coordinating with parents, faculty and home countries to make sure international students remain eligible

On July 6th, they announced instead of exempting students who are taking more than one online class, only students taking a full online course load would be exempt from entering into the United States.

“Nonimmigrant F-1 and M-1 students attending schools operating entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States,” said ICE. While the amendment sent a wave of relief around the country, cases continue to rise, and course platforms continue to change. 

Western Kentucky University is one of the many schools offering a hybrid program in the fall. While some classes will be in person, many will be online, and some are still undecided.

International students must arrive on campus two weeks before the first day of school to quarantine, giving students and universities a little over a month to collect necessary visas and paperwork.

Students coming to the U.S. on a student visa are handled much differently than someone immigrating into the country, and Vice Provost of Global Learning and International Affairs, John Sunnygard, says the change has left faculty and students uncertain and confused.

“We’re getting kind of mixed messages on whether ICE, or the extent that they are letting people come into the United States,” said Sunnygard. 

According to the National Organization of Foreign Student Advisors (NAFSA), international students bring in around 41 billion dollars a year to the U.S.

Over 70 countries send students to WKU alone, hoping to ensure their students a comprehensive education. As many courses in the fall will be offered online, many students will have to work with teachers, faculty and their home country to make sure they will still be eligible and verified by their Ministry of Education.

Communicating with parents and students abroad almost every day, Sunnygard says they are creating individualized and efficient programs for every student to make sure they leave WKU ready to get a job in their home country.

“We’re very, very careful to ensure that students are enrolled in the right thing, that we understand what the countries expect and again we’re talking 50, 60, 70 different countries,” said Sunnygard. 

As coronavirus cases and social tensions continue to rise in the U.S., many parents and students are nervous about arriving on the first day. WKU continues to work with the campus healthcare facility, campus police and enforce policies regarding racial sensitivity and bias.

Sunnygard says the main goal this fall for students, both domestic and international, is to look at each other for their similarities, not their differences.

“We’re asking our community just to be sensitive to the concerns that these students have and to treat them with the same respect that they would afford a family member,” says Sunnygard. 

Western Kentucky University plans to hold their first day of classes Aug. 24 and international students are set to arrive Aug. 10.