Federal policy reversal a relief for UNI international students

International students and campus administrators at the University of Northern Iowa breathed a sigh of relief after the federal government rescinded a policy decision Tuesday that could have forced thousands of international students across the country to return home amidst a global pandemic.

Facing broad opposition from college campuses across the country, including UNI, the government swiftly reversed a policy that would deport international students only attending classes online - a move that ended days of uncertainty and confusion for students who were unsure if they could continue to pursue their education in the U.S.

“I was relieved to hear that the Trump administration agreed to rescind the directive that would have added barriers to international students working to earn their degree in the United States,” said Kristi Marchesani, associate director of admissions and director of international recruitment and admissions, whose office had been flooded with calls from concerned students. “We are in the process of informing our incoming and current UNI international students of the good news so that they no longer have it hanging over their head and can keep their focus on their academic pursuits.”   

News of the policy change, which came after legal challenges joined by dozens of universities across the country, was welcome for students.

“I am incredibly relieved to hear about the policy reversal,” said UNI international student Triet Ngo, a senior going into the 2020 fall semester double majoring in marketing management and management information system development. “I appreciate all the efforts that went into opposing these unnecessarily unjust guidelines, and I hope that more sensible policies will be enacted in the near future."

UNI spoke out against the policy decision the day after it was announced.

“Rather than risk our nation's standing as a global leader in education by creating separate standards for international students, we should welcome the talented, dedicated people who choose to study here and who contribute valuable resources to our campus and community,” the university said last week.

Soon after the decision, UNI President Mark A. Nook joined university presidents across the nation to share their deep concern about the policy.

“We stand with the more than 6,000 international students across our campuses. These talented and dedicated students represent more than 120 nationalities and contribute to the richness and vitality of our campus communities,” Nook said in a combined statement with the presidents of all three Regent universities - Iowa, Iowa State and UNI. “We will continue to advocate for our international students, who are valued members of our campuses and communities."

This week, the presidents of all three Regent universities also sent a letter to the state’s Congressional delegation asking that the policy be rescinded. “The ICE ruling creates serious, unnecessary and harmful burdens – as well as added complexity – to our urgent preparations to open for the fall semester,” the letter said, noting that the decision came just five weeks before classes begin.

“I am very proud to see how the UNI community stepped up over the past week, collaborating across campus, to voice opposition to the rule and to strategize how to best support our international students,” Marchesani said.