UWI eyes students affected by US visa revocation

UWI eyes students affected by US visa revocation

Senior staff reporter

Monday, July 13, 2020

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THE United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) decision to revoke the visas of international students whose colleges offer only online courses this fall has prompted The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona to embark on a more aggressive recruitment campaign to scoop up affected students.

UWI Registrar Dr Donovan Stanberry told the Jamaica Observer that the university is closely monitoring its admission numbers, which could potentially be impacted by COVID-19-related delays.

“We do not see a fallout per se but, of course, it's too early to say, as people have accepted our offers. The numbers have not gone down, but whether or not those people who have accepted the offers will go on to register and start classes, that is an unknown variable. In anticipation of any fall-off in admission, we are being very, very aggressive and pre-emptive and proactive in terms of being able to intercept some of that traffic that will normally go to the US. In terms of the new announcement from ICE, in terms of students whose university has completely gone online, they will now be obliged to come home,” Dr Stanberry said.

He added: “I'm sure some Jamaicans — seeing that we, as a country here, have managed our COVID-19 situation better than our partners in the United States, in Britain and in other countries — might not be minded to go to study abroad this year. So our recruitment and marketing team have devised strategies to attract those students and to tell them that The UWI gives a very good value proposition.”

Dr Stanberry also pointed out that The UWI is the top university in the Caribbean.

“We are also in the top one per cent in Latin America and the top three per cent worldwide. The UWI is the only university in the region on the rated spectrum, and we have a tradition of high-quality teaching and high-quality graduates, so we are saying to those students that UWI is a good prospect, 'We welcome you, come and study here,'” he said.

The announcement by ICE last week Monday leaves Jamaicans studying in the US worried, as they are now faced with the risk of deportation should their universities decide to switch to online-only learning, since the US federal immigration authorities have also said that international students may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States.

Additionally, the State Department will not be issuing visas to students whose programmes are fully online for the fall semester, nor will these students be permitted to enter the United States by US Customs and Border Protection.

According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, American universities that have announced all online or mostly online fall terms include Harvard; Rutgers; Georgetown; University of Southern California; Yale; Texas A&M; Berkeley; Bakersfield College; Southern New Hampshire University; Swarthmore College; University of Alaska at Anchorage; and Wilmington University.

The Chronicle of Higher Education also reported that American universities which have announced alternating in-person and online fall terms are: Syracuse University, Michigan State, Duke, Boston University, and Stanford University.

Further, universities in the US adopting a wait-and-see approach include Florida A&M University, Princeton, Stony Brook University, California Institute of Technology, Miami Dade College, and Brown University.

But, renowned educator and scientist Dr Dennis Minott, who is also the CEO of A-QuEST — a programme that helps prepare top Jamaican students for colleges abroad — is cautioning US international students and those enrolled in US university programmes about being swept up in recruitment drives by local universities.

“If you do a university course for more than one semester and you are a foreign student — you are not a green card holder, or an American citizen — if you do any university course and complete a semester then you are a transfer student, and transfer foreign students very rarely get financial assistance. So, that is a great danger for a person who comes back and takes on a local university or any college course,” Dr Minott said. “They better not go for more than one semester or they become transfer foreign students.

“If they are transfer foreign students, unless they are athletes — and that applies to one or two colleges — I'd say 95 per cent of US schools do not give financial aid to foreign students who are transfers. There is that danger,” he said.

The best thing for international students and those already enrolled who are unable to leave the shores to do, Dr Minott said, is to be patient and follow the guidance of their universities.

“Given the divisiveness and the turmoil and the confusion in America with respect to education, education funding and immigration, it is quite a toxic mix right now...If you can't remain or leave the country to go to the US, then come back to Jamaica or stay in Jamaica and do the courses. Do the courses online as they have offered, and keep hoping for a situation to change.”

He continued: “It's going to get resolved and I don't think it will set back people for more than six weeks.”

In relation to scholarship money that might have been awarded for tuition and boarding fees to international students, Dr Minott said non-academic fees might be impacted as there has to be an account for money expenditure, but said he doubts academic fees will be affected. And, for students who may have used crowdfunding to accumulate funds to offset expenses their scholarships did not cover, Dr Minott encouraged them to use the money only for the intended purpose.

“Any university here would want to have a student who was accepted to Harvard, but is it in the interest of that student? What you go to university for is to get the kind of a quality education and most importantly the association, connections and prestige that comes from going to a great university. That is not to say our universities are not great universities [but] they are not the same category as a Harvard or an Oxford, University of Hamburg, and others...This is a reality we have to deal with. I, myself, am a proud UWI graduate, but it helps a lot when I say my PhD was examined at Oxford and the other comments that came from the Oxford examiners.

He added: “Be patient. You can't get to the US but you are going to the University of Columbia online, because of COVID-19. Can you imagine the impact it will make for you years from now, assuming this thing would have blown off, when you can say I was caught in the COVID-19 pandemic and had to study from home for one year, and here I am with a summa cum laude degree? That is going to be the biggest kind of a draw you could ever have...People have to stop and value those things.”

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