The Trump administration on Tuesday abandoned its attempt to force foreign students to leave the United States if all of their classes are to be taught online this autumn, in a dramatic reversal from a policy announced just last week.
U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs in Massachusetts said the U.S. government and Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology that sued over the measure had come to a settlement that would roll back the new rules and restore the previous status quo.
The universities argued the measure was unlawful and would adversely affect their academic institutions.
A flurry of lawsuits, including one brought by a coalition of state governments, were filed after Harvard's legal action and major tech companies and dozens of colleges and universities filed "friend-of-the-court" briefs opposing the rule.
There are more than a million foreign students at U.S. colleges and universities, and many schools depend on revenue from foreign students, who often pay full tuition.
In March, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) waived rules for international students on F-1 and M-1 visas that limit the number of online courses foreign students can take if they want to remain in the United States.
The move came as schools shuttered campuses in response to the spreading coronavirus and public health lockdowns.
But on July 6, ICE abruptly reversed the policy, blindsiding many universities and colleges that were still making their plans for the fall semester.
Many academic institutions are grappling with the logistical challenges of safely resuming classes as the coronavirus pandemic continues unabated around the world, and surges in the United States, especially among young people.