College leaders have been sounding increasingly bullish about their fall plans, signaling their intent to have students return to campus for the upcoming semester. In the New York Times, Brown University President Christina Paxson said reopening colleges “should be a national priority.” President Trump singled out Mitch Daniels, the president of Purdue and one of the first to call for resuming in-person classes, for praise. “I think that’s correct,” the president said.
But missing in Daniels’ announcement about his intent to reopen? Any mention of the 11,000 international students who attend Purdue, at least some of whom will find it difficult — impossible, even — to make it to campus this fall.
Indeed, most of the reopening statements have been silent about the roadblocks — closed consulates, travel bans, limited flights — that stand in the way of international students’ return.
The majority of colleges, of course, have not declared their fall plans, a situation that brings its own set of frustrations for international students. “They want us to promise we’re coming,” one parent groused to me the other day, “and we don’t even know if there will be classes.”
And behind the optimistic messaging, contingency planning continues. Even at institutions that have unequivocally stated an intent to return, I’ve talked with administrators who are preparing for the possibility of a fall with few new international students and a diminished number of returning upperclassmen from abroad.
As a fellow reporter noted on Twitter
, there are a lot of reasons college leaders want to project the confidence and stability a fall reopening suggests.
After all, S&P Global just downgraded its outlook for more than 125 colleges to negative, with declining international enrollments as an important factor.