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Penn State Plans For Possibility Of Online Learning For International Students In The Fall

view of empty Penn State mall
Min Xian

Penn State is preparing online learning options as it faces the possibility of students from other countries not being able to return to the United States in the fall because of travel restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic.


“What we’re uncertain of at this time is whether that experience will be fully residential or whether we have to have a remote learning component as we did this spring and as we’re planning for the summer,” said Roger Brindley, vice provost for Global Programs at the university.


Brindley was speaking Tuesday morning during an online town hall the university held to answer international students’ questions.


Brindley said the university is planning for the best-case scenario of students being able to return in the fall, but is also planning alternatives. He said the university will offer the full range of courses so students can move toward graduation.


“We may have to work with you for returning in January, but our first goal will be to have you here in residence in fall,” he said.


Penn State ended in-person classes this semester and for the summer, switching to remote learning as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread. The university has left open the possibility of returning to in-person classes in the second summer session.


Penn State and other institutions will likely take financial losses because of the pandemic. In an April 9 letter to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the head of the American Council on Education wrote of both the increased need of students and their families and the loss of revenue at institutions.


“On the institutional side, we estimate that enrollment for the next academic year will drop by 15%, including a projected decline of 25% for international students, resulting in a revenue loss for institutions of $23 billion,” the letter from council President Ted Mitchell said.


Masume Assaf, director of International Student and Scholar Advising at Penn State’s Global Programs, said that U.S. consulates around the world are closed and unlikely to reopen until COVID-19 is under control.  

“So we cannot predict when you will be able to apply for a visa if you need one. We don’t know if they will all open at the same time or in sequential order,” Assaf said.


International students living at University Park and the other campuses will be able to stay in on-campus housing during the summer. And, Brindley told students with questions to contact the international student advisers.


He said things are moving quickly, and it would be premature to make a decision in mid-April. But, the university will be writing to students to share final plans for August.


“We’re going to watch for a few weeks, and give you the very best advice with the very best intelligence we have as we go into the early summer weeks and into the summer,” Brindley said.

There were 10,416 international students at Penn State in fall 2019, making up almost 11 percent of university enrollment.

Anne Danahy has been a reporter at WPSU since fall 2017. Before crossing over to radio, she was a reporter at the Centre Daily Times in State College, Pennsylvania, and she worked in communications at Penn State. She is married with cats.
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