ASA Reacts to Administration Decision Affecting International Students

In response to the July 6 announcement from the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) stating in part that “Nonimmigrant F-1 and M-1 students attending schools operating entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States” [emphasis added], 2021 American Statistical Association President Robert Santos issued the following statement:

The United States has long welcomed students from around the world to study in US universities. Similarly, US students also study at universities around the world. Both the host countries and the countries of origin benefit socially and economically from this long tradition. The practice also builds cultural understanding between countries, thereby strengthening global economic and international relationships. The fields of science, engineering, and technology—including statistics—have benefitted especially from international students, many of whom continue to contribute to the US economy during and long after their programs of study. Many US technological companies were founded and/or directed by former international students.

The leadership of the American Statistical Association is deeply disturbed by this week’s announcement. For the nation’s public health safety, many universities must offer courses online to properly adhere to CDC guidelines. The SEVP policy of 7/6/2020 to expel international students if their fall classes are only online will disrupt their studies, pose long-term threats to US scientific infrastructure, and severely undermine our scientific workforce pipeline. It will direct students to other host countries, which will benefit from their technological innovations and ultimately erode the scientific dominance long held by the United States.

We strongly urge a reversal of this SEVP decision and echo our 2017 call “for an approach that does not undermine the US’s standing as a preeminent scientific leader, driver of innovation, and facilitator of intellectual inquiry and academic excellence.”