First Thought

Insights drawn weekly from Karin Fischer’s global-education newsletter, latitude(s). Subscribe here.

One source of outstanding uncertainty was resolved this week: The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said that it would continue to permit international students to take remote or hybrid classes for the spring semester.

A DHS spokeswoman confirmed that students should “continue to abide” by emergency pandemic guidance that allows international students in the U.S. to take all or some of their courses online. Longstanding policy restricts student-visa holders to just a single online course a semester.

With cases spreading, three dozen higher-ed associations had written to the department asking that the flexibility to study remotely be extended.

Why this matters: A large number of international students have remained in the U.S. during the pandemic, and a reversion to the old policy would have put them in a bind: Take at least some in-person classes or leave the country.

What this doesn’t do: New international students — those who weren’t already enrolled in an American college when the Covid-19 outbreak began last March — aren’t extended the same flexibility. If their courses are wholly online, they won’t be permitted to enter the U.S., despite colleges’ lobbying to change this policy.

Read more from Karin in this week’s latitude(s).

The Reading List

  • Just-released data from the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics underscores international students’ outsized impact on the American talent ecosystem: Four in 10 doctoral degrees awarded in science and engineering last year went to a temporary-visa holder.
  • The U.S. government imposed terrorism-related sanctions on an Iranian university it says uses global campuses for intelligence collection and recruitment.
  • Imprisoned Uighur scholar Rahile Dawut was named the first Open Society University Network honorary professor in the humanities.

Featured on

“Maybe a college and university would be happy if only one student died from Covid. But that’s someone’s life, and that can be me.”

—Stella Linardi, a junior at Cornell University and DACA student. At Cornell, few students who got Covid-19 fell seriously ill. But Linardi did. Read Nell Gluckman’s full story in The Chronicle.