Students should consider suing Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for charging them full tuition despite exclusively relying on remote learning in the fall, said White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany during a press conference.
“I think the policy speaks for itself,” McEnany said Wednesday, when asked about Harvard and MIT’s lawsuit to block a new rule by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that would prohibit international students from staying in the country if they take classes entirely online. “You know, you don’t get a visa for taking online classes from let’s say, the University of Phoenix, so why would you if you were just taking online classes generally?”
ICE announced on Monday that it is shifting away from an earlier exemption, which allowed foreign nationals to take more online courses than “normally permitted by federal regulation” throughout spring and summer while keeping their student status, as institutions across the country transitioned to online education due to the pandemic. Typically, foreigners are required to take no more than one class online for each semester, otherwise they risk having their student visa denied or revoked.
Harvard and MIT filed the lawsuit Wednesday morning against the Department of Homeland Security and ICE, arguing that the policy change, which would result in the deportation of foreign students whose courses are taught entirely online, reflects an effort by the federal government to force universities to resume in-person classes amid the pandemic without sufficient time to address potential health risks.
“I would note with regard to Harvard and MIT suing over this, and all due respect to my former Alma Mater, perhaps a better lawsuit would be coming from students who have to pay full tuition with no access to in-person classes to attend,” McEnany continued.
Neither Harvard or MIT is going to lower its tuition rate, although the two elite schools opted to offer most of their fall courses in virtual settings.
At Harvard, the undergraduate tuition for the 2020-2021 academic year costs $49,653, slightly higher than the 2019-2020 rate. Under the plan laid out by Harvard President Lawrence Bacow, only up to 40 percent of undergraduate students, including all first year students, will be able to live on campus and learn online this fall. Bacow said that all enrolled undergraduate students who spend both semesters learning away from campus can take two summer courses in 2021 for free.
Similarly, MIT said it will keep tuition at $53,790, the same cost as the last academic year. The school offers online instruction for undergraduates living off-campus and a combination of online and in-person instruction for those on campus.