May 21, 2021
Ruhi Jha began attending UC Berkeley this year half a world away in her New Delhi home, struggling with social isolation and time zone differences that forced her online for midnight classes. She and her family contracted and survived COVID-19 last month, terrifying her as infections in India surged.
And now Jha is grappling with new anxieties faced by tens of thousands of international students enrolled at U.S. colleges and universities: Can they get back to campuses for the start of fall term?
International students are at a critical moment in their college education, panicked that huge backlogs for visas requests, shuttered consulates and bureaucratic rules that limit access to the U.S. may derail their long-awaited return to campus. The stakes are particularly high in California, the top destination for international students where USC and the 10-campus University of California system alone collectively educate more than 54,000 of the million-plus international students enrolled at U.S. colleges and universities.
The uncertainty has propelled higher education leaders across the country to plead to the Biden administration for faster action and more flexible rules for their international students, who bring not only their talent, but also highly coveted tuition revenue and billions of dollars to local economies.