Pomona, Scripps Colleges Will Not Return Fall Semester, International Students Risk Deportation

In an email sent early this morning, Pomona College President G. Gabrielle Starr informed the student body that Pomona students will not be returning to campus for the fall semester. Citing the recent spike in coronavirus cases across LA county, Starr said that Pomona “will adapt and push forward with [its] vital educational mission.” International students, facing the effects of the Trump administration’s recent announcement of its plans to put pressure on colleges to reopen, will receive updates from the administration in the coming days. Scripps College President Lara Tiedens made a similar announcement. Neither college has decided to reduce tuition.

Under a recent Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) rule, international students taking a full course load online will not be able to stay in the United States. The schools’ announcement comes just a day after this policy was released to the public.

Credit: Immigration and Customs Enforcement


To counter some of the problems raised by a second semester online, the college plans to provide a number of benefits to students whose situations at home may be difficult, providing “financial aid to eligible students to cover their off-campus cost of attendance, including for housing and food, based on average expenses for off-campus living,” converting “a portion of the fall student employment allotment into grants for students with the greatest financial need,” and providing loaner laptops and Wi-Fi hotspots to current and new students “who request assistance.”

Pomona will also be “[t]aking steps to support students in challenging situations, promote educational equity and reduce financial strains.” Starr also justified going fully remote because of a diminished in-person campus experience: 

“This situation is not what we hoped for. On-campus, in-person education is central to our liberal arts mission. The reality is that if we had brought students back for fall, it would be under such restricted conditions that campus life would bear little resemblance to the community we cherish: No public gatherings or performances, no face-to-face meetings between students and professors, no orientation trips—the list of ‘no’s’ would be extensive.”

Starr also expressed confidence in remote learning, stating that “[t]he faculty’s goal is not only to deliver Pomona-level excellence during the temporary interruption of in-person teaching. It is also to use this time to incorporate new technologies in ways that will enhance their students’ educational experience even after they return to the in-person classes we value so much.”

Although Pomona’s administration stated that the college will return to its normal letter grade policy, after moving online for the Spring 2020 semester, Pomona switched to a new grading policy allowing only for pass, incomplete, or “no record pandemic” marks without the option for letter grades.

Under the new ICE regulations, “[n]onimmigrant 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. Active students currently in the United States enrolled in such programs must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status. If not, they may face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings.” (emphasis original)

However, from the language of the ICE regulations, it appears that as long as the colleges are not fully operating online, adopting a hybrid model instead, the rule does not apply. 

It is also currently unclear if current international seniors will benefit from the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program intended to help students develop the skills and credentials necessary to work in the United States after graduation.

Scripps College, another member of the Claremont Consortium, will likewise not be returning in the fall. The email sent out by the Scripps administration stated that “[m[ounting evidence” means a return to campus by a thousand students and staff would create an “unacceptable safety and health risk for members of [the Scripps] community and the broader community that surrounds [Scripps].”

Regarding international students, Scripps has stated that it is “exploring ways to support [its] international students as [it] review[s] the entire set of regulations and determine what they will require of the College in terms of compliance.

Scripps College is still creating plans for on-campus learning during the Spring 2021 semester, public health conditions permitting.

 

This story is developing and will be updated.

UPDATE: An earlier version of this article stated that Scripps did not mention the unique situation of international students in its email. The Scripps administration has since sent out a second email containing information for international students.

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