COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions
Posted Monday, May 11
Many thanks to the more than 600 people who joined us on May 1 for a Conversation Break with Provost Barbara Bichelmeyer and Associate Vice Provost for International Affairs Charles Bankart. Prior to the event, we received more than 100 questions. While we were able to cover a wide range of topics during our conversation, we weren’t able to address all of the questions and concerns submitted.
We’ve spent the past few days compiling answers to the most frequently asked questions. If you don’t find the answer to your question, please feel free to send it to email@example.com.
What help is available for international students who face financial difficulties due to COVID-19?
We understand that the spread of COVID-19 has affected international students severely. The unanticipated need to remain in the United States, loss of campus employment, lack of job opportunities and decline of family income due to COVID-19 have all created significant financial difficulties. International Support Services is a key ally in assisting students who have financial concerns and can direct students to institutional support sources. Please connect with them for assistance in accessing resources.
Since international students don’t qualify for federal CARES Emergency Act funding, what funding sources are available to support international students?
Under federal guidelines, international, undocumented and DACA students are ineligible to receive support through the CARES Act. However, the university recognizes the need to support these students and has set up limited funding through KU’s Emergency Aid Network, which will be used to help address COVID-19 related needs of students who are ineligible for CARES Act support.
How will a student GPA this semester affect my scholarship?
Students who are concerned about how their GPA this semester will affect their scholarship status should speak to their scholarship advisor. While GPA requirements remain in place for scholarships, KU International Affairs wants to foster a supportive and flexible environment and believes a holistic approach is needed in these difficult times. Students who choose credit/no-credit for the spring semester courses will not have their spring courses count for or against their GPA.
What work opportunities are available to international students on F-1 Visas?
Students studying at KU on F-1 Visas are still restricted to working no more than 20 hours per week on campus while school is in session. Connect with ISS about work opportunities available while school is not in session over the summer break.
What work opportunities are available for international students who are about to graduate.
With declining jobs due to COVID-19, employment in the United States will be a challenge for all graduates, including international students. However Optional Practical Training (OPT) is possible, even for remote work. Graduates still have 90 days to find a position for OPT. No COVID-19 related regulatory changes have been made to U.S.-based employment that would affect graduating students or employees. These changes cannot be made by an Executive Order and would require an official notice and public comment period. Such changes would most likely face legal challenges and take a long time to implement.
Will international student fees be reduced?
KU announced that tuition and campus fees for the 2020-21 academic year would not increase.
Will health care coverage be extended to international students?
All students are covered by the same health insurance plan negotiated by the university with United Health Care.
How will international enrollment numbers impact staff levels within KU International Affairs units?
As the world emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, we expect international student enrollment and study abroad participation to decline nationally and locally as travel remains a concern and barrier for many people. It’s unknown how this will impact KUIA’s budget. However, we know that our people and our work is our absolute priority for those we serve and those who serve. We cannot live beyond our means, but with so many unknowns in our future, the magnitude of impact is unknown.
How will KU assist graduate teaching assistants and other graduate students with positions who may not receive funding because of low undergraduate student enrollments?
This is a challenge that will need to be continually examined as our fall enrollment picture becomes clearer. This is not only an international GTA issue, but a university-wide concern of significant importance.
Will in-person classes be held this fall?
On May 1, KU released details on a five-phase plan that calls for a gradual expansion of in-person activities on campus. Each step of the plan takes into account a deep respect for the health and safety of KU’s community. Potential scenarios could be a fully opened campus; a campus that remains closed, but offers online classes; or a hybrid with some in-person classes and the rest online. At this time, KU plans to resume on-campus operations in some capacity this fall.
Will international students who plan to remain in the United States be able to return to campus in the fall?
International students who are currently enrolled at KU and have remained in the United States should have no challenges returning to the Lawrence campus in the fall if classes resume in person. International students need a visa to enter the United States, not to stay here. While the decision to remain in the U.S. is a difficult one, it provides significant security from an educational access perspective.
Will international students who returned to their home country during the spring semester be able to return in the fall?
At this point in time, U.S. Embassies and Consulates have suspended the routine issuances of visas. We do not know when visa services will resume. Students and scholars have been able to make summer appointments; however, we are unsure if those appointments will be kept. We anticipate backlogs and delays. Because of these concerns, we believe that not everyone who wants to be in Lawrence for the fall semester will be able to get here in time.
Will students be able to return to the United States if they live in or have visited China, Iran or Europe?
The United States has imposed a travel ban for foreigners from China, Iran, United Kingdom, Ireland and the 26 countries in the Schengen area of Europe (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland). The federally imposed entry restrictions apply to all non-U.S. citizens and permanent residents, even those with valid U.S. visas. The restrictions also apply to new students, current students, faculty and staff who may have traveled to these locations. These restrictions could be lifted at any time, so travel is precarious.
What will international orientation look like in the fall?
International Support Services is already working to develop an online orientation for summer students and plans to hold orientation for Fall 2020 primarily online. More information will be available in mid-June.
What about international GTAs who may not be able to arrive on campus in the fall?
Each case will need to be considered carefully and the individual circumstances will need to be taken into account. Situations will depend greatly on country of origin, the availability of U.S. visa appointments in that locale, the graduate student’s field of study, in addition to other concerns. ISS can be a guide and offer support as departments identify suitable approaches to meet each student’s needs and personal context.
If classes remain online, can students currently enrolled at KU continue to stay in the United States?
For international students who have begun their academic programs in person, immigration regulations have been relaxed to allow for students to remain in the United States even if they are enrolled in online courses.
Can international transfer students remain in the United States if they enroll in online classes this summer?
If an international student is already studying in the United States and wishes to transfer to KU, the student can enroll in KU this summer and remain in the U.S., even though classes will be online.
Will newly admitted international students be able to attend KU in the fall if classes remain online?
International students who are currently living abroad and have been admitted to summer or fall programs will not be able to come to the United States if courses remain entirely online. If a university decides to not offer in-person courses, it is presumed that students will have access to online instruction from abroad. KU will support newly admitted international students with online courses in the summer and are prepared to do so in the fall.
What opportunities are available for newly admitted students who may not be able to come to KU in the fall?
Our staff at International Admissions is connecting with students living abroad through virtual tours, office hours and events. With the decision to move to online summer courses, the summer undergraduate admissions deadline has been extended to May 22. The fall application deadline has been extended to July 10.
KU has been working diligently to prepare online enrollment options for students who want to attend KU, but are unable to leave their home country due to COVID-19. KU has hundreds of high-quality online options that will allow students to begin their academic career anywhere in the world. Depending on a student’s English proficiency, online options include:
- Full-time English study through the Applied English Center.
- A bridging program that combines part-time English study through the Applied English Center with selected courses from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
- Courses focused on KU Core requirements, allowing students proficient in English to begin their freshman year with a solid foundation.
KU has full advising plans to serve a wide range of majors across the humanities, social sciences and STEM fields. These online courses are designed specifically for delivering classes remotely, are aligned with KU Core requirements and will allow students to earn credits toward their degree.
How can we ensure students living in different time zones are engaged and successful in online classes?
Differing time zones are an important consideration when offering online courses. KU courses will offer a combination of synchronous and asynchronous approaches, which will help mitigate that impact for students who cannot be physically present in the U.S.
How does President Trump’s recent executive order placing additional limits on immigration to the U.S. affect KU’s international community?
The executive order suspends for 60 days, or until June 22, green card applications for individuals coming to the United States from abroad. The order does not affect:
- KU’s ability to support, prepare and file sponsored permanent residency cases (Labor Certifications and I-140s) for employees who have institutional commitments.
- Individuals already in the United States adjusting their immigration status to permanent resident (I-485).
- KU’s ability to continue to prepare and file nonimmigrant applications on behalf of employees, such as H-1B petitions (I-129) for foreign workers.
In other words, the executive order does not affect students or our international scholar and employee population. KU will continue to support faculty members and their employment-based permanent residency petitions. The order doesn’t apply to anyone already in the U.S., nor does it have any impact on international employment eligibility for our KU faculty, staff or students.
Will visiting scholars be able to remain in the United States?
For visiting scholar programs that ended before May 31, the U.S. State Department automatically extended the program terms by 60 days.
What happened to the students who were studying abroad during the spring semester?
Over the past few months, KU Study Abroad and Global Engagement (SAGE) safely returned 198 students who had been studying abroad during the spring semester. Upon their return, each of these students received tailored programmatic and academic advising to ensure they had enrollment options and maintained eligibility for financial aid.
What’s the future of KU’s study abroad program?
Looking into the coming months, May and June programs have been canceled or deferred. In mid to late May, SAGE will make the decision on whether or not July and August programs are possible. While SAGE hopes that fall programs will continue as planned, advisors are working with students to ensure they have alternative plans in case their study abroad programs are canceled.
Several outside factors will influence SAGE’s decision to resume study abroad programs, including:
- The U.S. State Departments and Centers for Disease Control’s global threat assessment for travel. Currently, it is at the highest level, which strongly discourages any travel whatsoever.
- Airline volatility makes travel unpredictable and emergency evacuations difficult to execute.
- Partner universities and organizations abroad have also canceled programs or may still be deciding when they will return to in-person activities.
- KU has restricted all university-sponsored international travel for students, faculty and staff. Study Abroad programs will not run while this travel restriction is in place.
If travel is not possible, SAGE is working on virtual internships and programs as viable alternatives.
Unfortunately, a rise in anti-Asian harassment and discrimination has been documented globally, nationally and locally. How can do we ensure this pandemic is not used as an opportunity for brutality and oppression against others?
We cannot ensure this – but we can actively and vocally show our support for our diverse community and lack of tolerance for racism, bigotry, violence and oppression. KU is not a bubble and our entire community must actively vocalize our support for every member of our wonderful community – at KU, Lawrence, Kansas, the nation and the world.
Are we still committed to having a diverse campus? If so, how do we move from the framework of harassment and discrimination will not be tolerated to educating and celebrating our diverse community?
KU International Affairs continues to be 100 percent committed to building and maintaining a diverse community. The value of that diversity and our common humanity and interdependence has only been reinforced by this pandemic. We are in this together and the solutions will include us all.
We have several initiatives in place already, including community discussions with groups that have been the target of harassment and discrimination. The KU Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access (IOA) is vigorously addressing emergency issues. KUIA and Office of Diversity & Equity affirm our support of every member of our community and our opposition of those who espouse hate or seek to blame individuals or groups for this pandemic. A virus does not discriminate based on race, nationality or politics. Our society must stand together.
What are we doing to educate our congressional delegation about the importance of international students in higher education and the economy?
KU has a federal liaison in Washington, D.C. who is an active and excellent advocate for our international community. The federal liaison is in regular contact with Kansas congressional representatives and communicates the great value that our international talent brings to our faculty, staff and student populations.
Can new policies in resonse to COVID-19 regarding international programs and international visitors be submitted to university governance for appropriate review?
University governance serves the community and we encourage community engagement as our community members see new policy needs or feel existing policies should be reexamined.
How can the international community feel protected?
Our international Jayhawks should be as involved as possible in the larger university community. The international community is one and the same as the larger Jayhawk community. We are one. All services and supports serve all community members, period. The entire weight of the University of Kansas is behind our Jayhawks and that by definition includes those Jayhawks who just happen to be international.
If needed, the Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access remains open and ready to assist students, faculty, and staff with any concerns about harassment and discrimination. Complaints can be filed by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, by calling 785-864-6414, or by filling out an online complaint form. Also, KU units have created a resource guide with additional resources and support for the Asian, Asian-American and Pacific Islander community.
What plans are in place to recognize graduating international students who have to return to their home countries, and are therefore unable to participate in later celebrations?
KU International Affairs is planning a virtual ceremony to recognize international graduates. The virtual ceremony will include video remarks by KU dignitaries, announcement of student award winners and recognition of international student graduates. Watch for emails and social media posts on May 15 with more information on how to attend this virtual celebration.