• ICE announced the rule July 6, reversing a policy instituted in March as the coronavirus took hold
  • The rule would have impacted an estimated 1 million foreign students
  • The rule was seen as part of an administration effort to force all schools to open fully in the fall for in-person instruction

The Trump administration, bowing to pressure from universities and states, on Tuesday rescinded an order that would have revoked the visas of foreign students who take their classes online rather than in person because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement issued the order July 6 and was sued a day later by Harvard and MIT. By Monday, 17 states and the District of Columbia also had filed suit to block the order as had California’s public colleges.

The settlement was announced during a federal court hearing on the Harvard-MIT suit in Boston. U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs said the government would rescind the policy and return to status quo, withdrawing a FAQ outlining the rule.

“I have been informed by the parties that they have come to a resolution,” Burroughs said.

The rule would have been costly to colleges and universities. Foreign students make up 5.5% of college and university students but provide 26.2% of revenue. In 2018, that amounted to $9 billion.

In their court filing, Harvard and MIT said the ICE rule would have caused “irreparable harm” if an order blocking it was not granted. The decision affects an estimated 1 million international students.

“We thought the original rules that were suggested were cruel and misguided and didn't serve our universities, didn't serve our students and frankly didn't serve our country,” Rice University President David Leebron told CNN.

CNN reported the White House now plans to seek to have the rule apply only to new students.

The rule was seen as part of the administration effort to force all schools to open fully in the fall for in-person instruction despite the continuing spread of the coronavirus.

The lawsuits accused the administration of violating federal law in the way it imposed the rule, calling it “arbitrary and capricious.”

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey hailed the rescission.