Florida Tech President on NPR: University Must Pivot in Face of Visa Rules for Foreign Students

Regulations Require Face-to-Face Classes to Stay in U.S.

MELBOURNE, FLA. — Florida Tech President Dwayne McCay described the potential impact of federal regulations affecting international student visas during a nearly 8-minute interview on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered Sunday.

Speaking from the university’s NPR affiliate WFIT 89.5 FM, McCay told host Michel Martin that regulations from the Trump Administration announced July 6 that would revoke U.S. visas from international college students whose classes are all online impacts a cohort that is key to the success of Florida Tech and other smaller, private institutions.

“We will suffer significantly (under these regulations),” he said. “We are a small school, and we are tuition driven as many small, private schools are, and the international students pay a significant level of tuition to attend here. So being tuition driven, if you lose all those students, you would lose close to half your tuition,” he said. “But in addition to that, we get some of the best international students from all over the world, and so our international students raise the level of ability for each and every class and projects to accomplish more than they could have.”

McCay told Martin that after months of planning, and given the substantial surge in COVID-19 cases in Florida, he was considering continuing the university’s fully online class structure, which started in the spring semester and continued through summer classes.

“It seemed prudent to me for the safety and health of everyone, which of course is our number one concern,” he said.

The announcement of the regulations, however, caused McCay and senior staff to reevaluate that approach “because it’s such a huge fraction of our student body that are international. We had very little choice but to at least have some level, maybe a major level, of on-campus courses.”

As the interview concluded, Martin asked McCay what advice he would offer to other educational leaders.

“The only advice I can give is flexibility. If you are not flexible, you are not going to survive,” he said. “We got more information, the boundary conditions changed, we had to be flexible and make a new decision.”

The full interview is available here.

Meanwhile, the university has developed a comprehensive health and safety plan called “Florida Tech Safe: Return to Learn,” that outlines numerous steps being taken to protect students, faculty and staff arriving for face-to-face fall classes that begin Aug. 17.

The plan is available at www.fit.edu/coronavirus/.


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