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Fall 2021 International Graduate Students Contingency Plan
The Provost has given his approval for Graduate Programs with significant numbers of international graduate students who may not be able to travel to Madison in Fall 2021 due to COVID restrictions to provide flexibilities allowing online enrollment options. This decision was previously communicated to the Instructional Continuity Associate Deans but this document further outlines the strategy, parameters and plans to communicate the Provost approval to the Graduate Program Coordinators.
Encourage new and continuing international graduate students to be in Madison for fall in-person classes.
Provide graduate programs the authority to create possible online pathways for new and continuing international graduate students who are unable to be in Madison due to COVID related travel and visa acquisition issues.
Allow graduate programs to decide on possible flexibilities for new and continuing international graduate students, recognizing that graduate programs understand their specific pedagogical and resource challenges in providing flexibility via full-time, fully online enrollment.
Recognize and operate in the context of challenges and limitations facing graduate departments in graduate coordinator and instructional domains.
Provide sufficient campus-level guidance and parameters to ensure compliance with federal immigration regulations and current federal operational guidance.
Broad Overview of Approach
For new and continuing international graduate students, graduate departments may create fully online course sections to facilitate the enrollment of students who cannot be in Madison. These online course sections must be offered only to international graduate students who are unable to be in the United States due to visa issues or travel restrictions. Students who are in the United States may not opt to participate in online sections unless:
- The online course section is open to any/all students, or;
- The online participation is part of a documented accommodation approved by the McBurney Disability Resource Center.
NOTE: International graduate students who are in Madison on an F-1 visa may only count three online credits toward their full-time enrollment requirements during fall/spring semesters. J-1 visa students must take traditional on-campus courses and no online courses may count toward a J-1 student’s full-time enrollment requirement.
Parameters for Online Course Offerings
If a graduate department chooses to provide online enrollment options for international students who cannot be in Madison, the course modality in SIS must reflect the online offering, to remain compliant with federal immigration and visa regulations. An instructor may not accommodate online participation by international students in a course that is recorded in SIS with a modality of P – In Person.
If the graduate department will provide online course options for international students, recognize that these students will not be in our time zone and encourage instructors to minimize synchronous meeting times whenever possible. Sections offered asynchronously must be carefully constructed to follow the credit hour policy. The following options are available for scheduling the online course section and remaining compliant with federal immigration and visa regulations. Once course sections are scheduled within one of the options below, the graduate departments will be responsible for facilitating student enrollment into them, using class permissions.
The delivery modality for a currently scheduled course section (and associated lab/discussion) is already recorded in SIS as WO – Fully Online. This course section can be made available to graduate international students.
The delivery modality for a currently scheduled course section (and associated lab/discussion, if applicable) is changed from P – In person to WO – Fully Online in SIS. The modality change can be made even if students are already enrolled, but enrolled students should be notified of the modality switch and made aware of the online enrollment credit limits for F-1 and J-1 students. If a department wishes to change the modality in SIS on a section with enrollment, they will need to work with the Office of the Registrar to implement this change.
Option Three (Strongly Preferred)
A new, stand-alone course section (and associated lab/discussion, if applicable) is created and offered, specifically to graduate, international students who cannot be in Madison. The course modality *must* be indicated as WO – Online Only.
Create an online course section (with associated lab/discussion, if applicable) and have the course section joined with an existing in-person course section within Canvas (not SIS). If joining with the in-person section means a synchronous meeting expectation, schedule the online and in-person sections at the same time.
Potential Considerations/Impacts of Online Course Offerings
Defining the specific population of international graduate students who cannot get to Madison is challenging and evolving.
International students with a valid F-1 immigration status must enroll in a full-time credit load (8 credits) to maintain their visa status.
An official change in immigration status will be reported for graduate international students who pursue online enrollment but enroll in a less-than-full-time credit load.
Eligibility for off-campus work experience requires minimum one-year full-time enrollment in valid U.S. F-1 immigration status unless the graduate program requires all students in the program to participate in a practical training experience within the first year. Students in their final year of study may be ineligible altogether for post-graduation employment authorization.
Potential Population (based on survey responses as of 7/14/2021)
Graduate Program Decision-Making Rules/Process
If the graduate program will offer online enrollment options for international students who cannot get to Madison, then follow these steps:
Does the student have an allowable reason for not being in Madison in fall? Campus is preparing information related to vaccination and public health concerns--so those will not be allowable reasons. Allowable reasons include:
Travel restrictions that impact timely arrival by September 8, 2021 (October 1, 2021 latest advisable entry date for graduate students)
Visa appointment impacts timely arrival by September 8, 2021
Visa acquired too late for timely arrival
Significant financial barriers caused by visa delays and travel restrictions
The Graduate Program Coordinator will take reasonable steps to verify the reasons presented and it may be useful for the GPC to consult with the International Contingency Planning committee about particular cases.
If the student does not have an allowable reason, they will be expected to be in Madison for full-time enrollment or work with their graduate program to defer admission (new students) or with ISS to take an ISS Leave of Absence/LOA (continuing students)
If the student does have an allowable reason, proceed to 3.
Evaluate possibility of fully online (either part-time or full-time) pathway for the student. Can the student make degree progress via full-time enrollment? If yes, work with student to get enrolled in online course sections. If no, proceed to 4.
If a pathway to degree progress via full-time, fully-online enrollment cannot be identified, determine if there are part-time, fully online enrollment options.
If there are part-time, fully-online enrollment options, advise the student that this enrollment option will not allow them to retain their F-1 student immigration status but that they may enroll in these fully online courses and continue to make some progress toward their degree.
If there are no part-time, fully online enrollment options, the student will work with their graduate program to defer admission (new students) or with ISS to take an ISS Leave of Absence/LOA (continuing students). If there are dissertators who are not able to enroll for 3 credits, then either the program or the student should get in touch with the Graduate School.
Themes for Program Messaging to Students
- Fall 2021 will look a great deal like fall 2019. We are prepared for and expect nearly all of our international graduate students to be in Madison for the beginning of fall term classes. Reasons for not being here only include the inability to complete the visa process or travel restrictions.
If you expect that you will be unable to be in Madison for the start of fall classes, please report this through ISS’s Fall Enrollment Plan. Graduate students self-identifying via the ISS Fall Enrollment Plan will be connected with the appropriate graduate program/department.
Our graduate program coordinator will work with international students to explore the possibility of full-time, fully online enrollment. Full-time, fully online enrollment cannot be guaranteed.
For graduate international students unable to be in Madison:
In many cases, students will have to defer admission (new) or take an ISS Leave of Absence (LOA) / gap semester (continuing students) or enroll in online courses at a less-than-full-time load. Students with valid F-1 student immigration status now will not retain their F-1 status if enrolling less than full-time or taking an ISS LOA / gap semester.
In some cases, a pathway to full-time, fully online enrollment may be identifiable and allowable.
This pathway will be coordinated by the graduate program coordinator.
This pathway will depend on graduate program/department decisions in accord with basic campus guidance on fall semester modality.
As we get closer to the start of the fall semester, it will be less possible to identify and organize a plan for full-time, fully online enrollment, and the need for students to defer their admission (new) or to take an ISS LOA (continuing) will become more likely.