Frustration And Heartbreak As International Students At Local Universities Scramble To Stay In The U.S.

CHARLOTTE, NC. — Sahithi Meduri is studying computer science at UNC Charlotte. She’s from India but is in the U.S. on a visa. Meduri says fellow international students feel helpless.

“They’re kind of scared. I don’t blame them. They’re scared, they’re panicking, they’re really upset,” says Meduri.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced Monday that international students will be forced to leave the U.S. or transfer to another college if their schools operate entirely online this fall. ICE also says new visas will not be issued to students at those schools.

“International students have a reason to stay put in the United States without risk going back to their home country and risk getting COVID-19.”

Meduri started a petition calling for a one-credit class so international students can stay. At last check, more than 7,000 signatures. UNC Charlotte says fewer than 100 students may be impacted by the ICE decision. UNCC expects to be able to offer those students in-person and hybrid classes that will allow them to maintain their visa status. Meduri says she’s grateful the university responded so quickly.

“I also think that they need to assure international students that the semester for fall will not move to online mid-semester, because that’s the next catch of that SEVP rule that they released.”

Johnson C. Smith and Winthrop Universities are not impacted. They will have in-person instruction in the fall. Davidson College has several options including fully online and face-to-face classes with online options for students who participate remotely.