The month of July 2020 brought about unprecedented challenges to international education in the United States. The world is already struggling through a pandemic. International mobility pivots from non-existent to severely limited. The business world is adjusting to new ways of interacting with clients and employees. Entire sectors of the economy struggle to survive. International education is one of these industries. While traditionally relying on international student mobility, universities and education institutions faced a need to quickly adapt to online learning. Although this does not replace the intercultural experiences associated with studying on a foreign campus, it allows for continuity – for students to progress in their studies and creates opportunities for new students reaching the age of matriculation.
While a shift to online education was not ideal, it was the only way for students, both international and domestic to finish the terms they were enrolled in. As time progresses, there are increasing signs that Fall 2020 will include online or hybrid education for international and domestic students. Then, on July 6, 2020, the United States Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) issued guidance that would have banned nonimmigrant students from remaining in the United States while attending school operating entirely online.
The inboxes, news feeds and social media platforms of most international educators filled with inquiries from confused international students and outraged colleagues. Fortunately, through the advocacy efforts of the international education industry and in response to law suits filed by prominent universities, the guidance was reversed on July 14, reverting to guidance issued in the Spring at the start of the pandemic allowing international students to remain in the United States in legal status while taking more than one online class. Though this was a challenging experience for many, we hope this will be a small blip on the long tradition of international education in the United States. In fact, whatever normal will look like, continuity is key.
Some see evaluators as service providers to the admissions industry. But credential evaluation is an important part of the admissions process, and evaluators external and internal alike face their own challenges of reviewing foreign academic programs in a time or rapid changes within education systems and documentation standards. Amid shifts to online learning, work-from-home, and unavailability of testing, educational credentials available for admission consideration look much different in 2020 than they did in 2019. Despite that, institutions still need to make admissions decisions and students need to apply. Institutions that do not fill classes will face budgetary challenges. Students who choose to wait will face increased competition from those who reach matriculation age in 2021. Waiting is not an option, and the role of experienced credential evaluators on campus and at evaluation agencies like Scholaro is more important than ever.
As an evaluation agency, Scholaro and its staff are committed to continuing the tradition of international education in the United States and around the world. Evaluators are prepared to help navigate through all the changes taking place around the world and can make sense of those credentials available to international students in this unprecedented time. Moreover, we commend and support our international educator colleagues directly affected by SEVP challenges. Along with the rest of the industry, we celebrate the decision to rescind the detrimental July 6 guidance and look forward to promoting continuity of international education in the United States.