A message from Penn State President Eric J. Barron

July 08, 2020

Dear Penn State community,  

Two days ago U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) announced that it would no longer provide exemptions due to the coronavirus pandemic for international students taking a fully remote course load during the fall 2020 semester. If left in place, these regulations would force international students who cannot enroll in at least one course in person to transfer to another university to take an in-person course or leave the country, risking that they will not be able to return to complete their education.  

These very harmful rules come amid a pandemic and at a time when global travel is severely restricted. Our nation’s colleges and universities are doing everything they can to keep their students, faculty and staff safe and healthy this fall while continuing their educational missions. Doing so requires the flexibility to deliver some or all of their courses remotely. At Penn State alone, this edict could have a disastrous and unfair impact on thousands of our students.  

We will do all that we can to see that this extremely negative impact is not the case and that this unfortunate directive does not derail the educational ambitions of our international students. They are a welcome, enriching and vital part of our community, belong on our campuses and have every right to finish their degrees at Penn State. 

As such, Penn State is joining with the Association of American Universities, the American Council on Education, the Association of Public & Land-grant Universities and other institutions in higher education in calling for the immediate rescission of these troubling rules. Doing so is in our country’s best interest and simply the right and just thing to do.   

We also are joining an amicus brief being written in support of Harvard and MIT’s lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security and ICE over these new rules.  

In the meantime, we are exploring various means to keep all of our students on our campuses should these regulations persist. We will share more information on these plans with our international community in the coming days and weeks.  

To our international students: You are welcome here. Your presence enriches our University and the educational experience of all of our students. I know you have questions and trepidations, but please know that our academic programs are already working to provide you with options for a successful fall semester, doing all they can to keep you from having to leave your Penn State family. We will be working tirelessly and creatively to lessen the impacts of this directive on you. I urge you to read this backgrounder and FAQ created by Penn State Global Programs and the Penn State Law Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic. I hope it will answer many of your questions. 

Your advisers are available to discuss your individual circumstances. Concerned students can also contact the Directorate of International Student and Scholar Advising at 814-865-6348 (Option 2) or submit a question online at iStart.gp.psu.edu.  

We cannot assail this unjust edict enough, but if it remains, we will do everything in our power to support our international students as they work to finish their degrees on campus. 


Eric J. Barron 

President, Penn State 


Last Updated July 09, 2020