In two months, 19-year-old Tianyu Fang is due to start his first semester at one of the most-prestigious schools in America: Stanford University in California. Now, the Chinese national isn't sure if he'll make it.
Fang is one of the million or so international students who could be made to leave the United States if their universities switch to online-only learning, under a rule announced by Washington on Monday. Those who don't leave voluntarily face deportation.
Some universities have announced they will deliver all courses online due to the coronavirus pandemic. Others are still planning to run classes on campus, but with the US outbreak still not under control, there's a risk that those institutions could go remote, too.
More than half of international students in the US come from Asia. In the 2018-2019 academic year, 370,000 students were from China, 202,000 from India, and 52,000 from South Korea.
Travel restrictions: The pandemic is already complicating efforts to return to the US for studies. There are few flights between the US and China, where international arrivals have to quarantine for two weeks. For those already in the US, it may be harder for some students to get home than others.
"The bigger issue is some of these countries have travel restrictions on and they can't go home, so what do they do then?" said Theresa Cardinal Brown, director of immigration and cross-border policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center. "It's a conundrum for a lot of students."
The decision could impact the US economy: In 2018, students from China, India and South Korea alone contributed more than $25 billionto the economy, according to non-profit Institute of International Education. If students are forced to leave the country, they may not be willing to continue paying tuition fees to study remotely from a different time zone.
Missed opportunities: If international students are sent home early, it's not just their education that will be impacted. Students could end up missing out on job opportunities -- often one of the reasons they might have chosen to study in the US in the first place.
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