International students could lose their visas unless schools have some in-person courses

CHICAGO (WLS) -- It's been months since college campuses nationwide went quiet, but while they remain mostly empty, there are those still living on them: international students with nowhere else to go.

"There's disempowerment that's happened. They have no control. They are in no-man's land truly," said Lisa Dietrich.

Dietrich, heads the Network of Nations an NIU-based non-profit that aids the the nearly 1,000 international students on campus there.

Because of the pandemic, all classes this past Spring and Summer went online. They're now reeling, after getting the news yesterday that unless they're able to take at least some of their courses in person come fall their student visas will be revoked.

"In our program, mechanical engineering, all of the courses were supposed to be online for next semester. Yesterday when we heard this news we were totally shocked because we have no chance. We had no other options," said Sina Tayebati, a Graduate Student at NIU.

In Illinois alone, there are an estimated 53,000 international students representing a significant portion of college campuses overall population- up to 20-25% in some cases.

The University of Illinois system has over 15,000 international students, making it one of the largest concentrations nationwide. At UIC they're now scrambling to figure out how to ensure there are enough in-person classes being offered next fall to at the very least protect their continuing students.

"Their perspectives, their input, their presence in the classroom and on campus is really integral to our vision to being truly a engaged globally university," said Neil McCrillis.

The new policy affects not just the students, but also means universities now until July 15th only to certify whether they will be fully open, operate on a hybrid model or offer online-only classes.
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