We are continuously inspired by how we have all come together to ensure that our students have access to high-quality education during these difficult times. As we prepare for the reopening of schools, Cambridge Network is committed to providing the necessary guidance for the success of our partners and their international student programs. We know that advice is only as good as action and implementation, so we continue to work with our partners to find solutions to issues proactively.
On July 24, 2020, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program released a new broadcast message, which clarifies aspects of applying the March 2020 status quo for the Fall 2020 term, and a new FAQ, that addresses the additional questions related to the broadcast message. Under this new guidance:
- Continuing students (those enrolled on or before March 9, 2020) will remain eligible to continue holding visas and stay in the United States if their program is entirely online for Fall 2020.
- Newly enrolled students can apply for visas and stay in the United States for hybrid programs of study beyond the usual limitations of online classes. They will not be affected if their school switches from in-person or hybrid learning to fully online instruction.
- However, new students who intend to pursue a full online course load “will likely not be able to obtain an F-1 or M-1 visa to study in the United States” and DSOs should not issue I-20s to these new students. Cambridge advises schools to defer student enrollment to Spring or Fall 2021, but students do not need a visa to take the school-provided online option.
- Schools should review SEVP’s COVID-19 FAQs for information on how to issue Forms I20. Schools do not need to reissue Forms I-20 unless there are substantive changes.
Establish Tuition Remainder Deadlines
Feedback from schools and international students has indicated a reluctance of fully converting tuition payments due to uncertainty around operational plans for Fall 2020 or unclear policies for international students. We strongly recommend directly communicating with your international students and their families via a video or virtual conference call to reassure natural parents of any lingering concerns. Once your team has addressed these plans and questions, it is essential to establish your students’ decision timelines. A clear deadline for final tuition payments (ex. Friday, August 21, 2020) must be in place to avoid delays and disruptions to your school’s operations. Until international students have provided full financial commitments for Fall 2020, schools should not give students access to online portals and classes.
Some families may request making tuition payments in installments by semester if taking the school-provided option. Any agreements to this extent should first be aligned with your program’s service provider, followed by collecting at least 55% of total fees for the Fall semester and the following 45% for the Spring semester.
Each of our schools may have different state or local requirements and yet-to-be-determined policies for reopening. However, international students need to be informed of your decisions and processes to have a clear direction and a timeline for giving their commitment. International students are currently evaluating their educational options. Still, without an established plan from your school, students are inclined to seek other alternatives for continued education, i.e., international schools in their home country and online schooling.
Solutions to Maintaining International Enrollment
Based on your school’s operational status, you may consider the following options to maintain your international student enrollment:
- If your school intends to reopen in-person or partially in-person (hybrid) for Fall 2020, we suggest directly communicating your plans and reassuring your international students of your plans, options for late arrival, and their immigration status under the new SEVP guidance.
- If your school intends to reopen completely online for Fall 2020, we suggest discussing contingency plans for students unable to travel to the United States (see SEVP update), detailing your online program if available internationally, and address possible deferred enrollments for Spring 2021.
- If your school has yet to create a viable solution for international students and needs distance learning support, we recommend St. Mary’s Online Academy, an online learning platform designed in collaboration with St. Mary’s School of Medford, OR taught synchronously in Asian time zones.
We will continue to work with our community to keep you informed of shifting school priorities and solutions. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact your Program Manager.