CINCINNATI — Imagine if taking college classes online during a pandemic meant you could get arrested and deported.
"It is very scary, and the international community, it was kind of like a shock wave or ripple went through," said Daniel Posmik, who’s here from Germany on a student visa.
Posmik, who will be a junior this fall at the University of Cincinnati Blue Ash College, just learned that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) plans to deport any international student who takes more than three credit hours online.
That means thousands of international students in our area cannot take more than one online class, even if they fear for their health during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It is a very unfair to just tell all international students if your program is online you've got to leave the country," Posmik said.
"This on top feels like we are being degraded, almost, to second-class students."
The area universities and colleges they attend are concerned, too, and revising course options so they can continue their education without fear from ICE.
This is not a new rule. ICE says if international students want to take online courses, they can do that from their own country. But ICE waived it in spring and summer due to the pandemic.
"The coronavirus has not gone away,” noted Soni Hill, senior director of Student Success and Development at Cincinnati State. Hill ensures that the school complies with the Homeland Security regulations.
"Let's understand what that is and what it means. Our cases are going up. The number of deaths in our country is going up. For God's sake, have some compassion," Hill said.
ICE declined to comment due to pending litigation to stop this from happening.
Nearly 100 international students are paying $43,000, including housing and food expenses, to go to Cincinnati State for two years. UC had 3,500 in international students at last count last fall.
"[I] had to work five jobs my first year of college to make things work," Posmik said.
"Out-of-state tuition can range from two to three times of what in-state is," he said. "Plus, we are not eligible for any federal grants, so we are basically a huge financial asset, a huge financial motor for higher education institutions."
Area schools say international students typically go to school for healthcare fields, technology and engineering.
"They're filling the skill and talent gaps in the Cincinnati region," said Cincinnati State Provost Robbin Hoopes.
Schools are preparing to help international students organize a safe schedule.
Cincinnati State says it is going to contact students after talking to Homeland Security.
UC plans to notify students about course options available to them at 3 p.m. Friday.
UC sent a notice to its international students assuring them they would work it out.
“We are committed to assisting you during this stressful time and making sure you can find options to continue your education here at UC," the notice said. "Please know we value you and everything you bring to our Bearcat community. UC would be a lesser place without you.”