Commitment to the Support and Education of Muhlenberg’s International Students

A message from President Harring to the Muhlenberg College community

 Tuesday, July 7, 2020 02:23 PM

To the Muhlenberg Community,

Yesterday the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced changes to the Student Exchange and Visitor Program (SEVP) for the upcoming academic year regarding the allowable modalities of coursework in order to obtain (and maintain) a F-1 visa status for the purpose of study. This action seriously impacts our international students in F-1 visa status. We firmly stand with Muhlenberg students from across the globe who enrich our community every day. We are committed to doing all we can to support them and ensure they have full access to their Muhlenberg education. 

The new Temporary Final Rule for the fall states that students attending schools in the U.S. who have adopted a hybrid model—as Muhlenberg has chosen—may take more than one course online but that the college must certify that its program is not entirely online, that the student is not taking an entirely online course load and that the student is taking the minimum number of courses to obtain their degree. The more troubling part of the rule is that students enrolled in a fully online program in the U.S. will not be able to maintain their visa status and will have to leave the country. International students may enroll in fully online classes from their home country. This past spring, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the visa status rules were more relaxed to allow for international students to remain in the country through fully online coursework.

We know that this lack of flexibility for study adds to the myriad stresses our international students are already experiencing. These changes, of course, will serve as another factor in their decision regarding whether they will attend in person or take their classes online from their homes. Many of our international students are already facing an uphill struggle in returning to campus due to COVID-19—from embassies that remain closed to limited flight availability for a return.

The College is addressing the situation in several ways. Muhlenberg’s Office of International Student Support has and will continue to work closely with all of our international students, providing a high level of individual support, and working with the Offices of the Provost and Dean of Students to ensure that our international students have access to their Muhlenberg education. The Dean of Academic Life and Registrar will be providing guidance for faculty advisors regarding fall course scheduling. The Office of Information Technology is working to ensure that international students who elect to remain at home will be able to access their courses. International admissions has continued their personalized approach to connecting with prospective international students. The College is currently reviewing the new rules within the context of our fall planning, including contingencies regarding any possible move to remote learning necessitated by additional surges in COVID-19 cases. As our options for support come into focus we will share an institutional approach for ensuring care for our international students.

I encourage you to contact any of the following College resources for support or if you have additional questions: 

As a community, we stand with all those affected by this ruling and will work together to support our students during this challenging time.


Kathleen E. Harring