- The Washington Times - Friday, May 31, 2002

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) Canadian and Mexican students will no longer be allowed to enroll part-time in U.S. colleges under a government policy change that has taken schools and students by surprise.
The change, which took effect without notice last week, is the result of an Immigration and Naturalization Service decision to begin enforcing a statute that has been on the books for years.
Under federal law, immigrants coming to the United States to study cannot be classified as visitors, but they can't be called students unless they carry a full course load of at least 12 credits.
For years, border points such as Buffalo have made exceptions for part-time Canadian students, but after the September 11 attacks the Buffalo field office of the INS sought a clarification of the policy.
"Since 9/11, there's been a lot more stress on following the letter of the law," said Francis Holmes, the Buffalo office's district director.
On May 22, Mr. Holmes was told to enforce the policy. The office notified about 20 regional colleges and NAFSA, the National Association of Foreign Student Advisers.
It is unclear how many Canadian and Mexican students will be affected by the change.
Administrators said that while there had been rumblings about policy changes involving foreign students since September 11, they were taken aback at the lack of notice.
"This was just sort of sprung on all of us," said Elizabeth White, assistant director of international admissions at the University at Buffalo.
D'Youville College in Buffalo, near the Peace Bridge to Fort Erie, Ontario, has recruited students for its nursing and education programs from Canadian hospitals and other work sites for 15 to 20 years.
"As it stands now, we can't recruit part-timers," said Robert Murphy, vice president for student affairs. He estimated that 160 of the private college's 2,300 students were Canadians studying part time during the spring semester. Most are nursing students.
Students enrolled in courses that began before May 22 will be allowed to complete the summer session, Mr. Holmes said. But they will have to stop at INS offices to check in, meaning they must give themselves more time to get to school.
Miss White said the change would affect a small percentage of the university's 3,000 international students, perhaps 30 to 40 people.
"But it's still significant for those students who began their studies here with the assumption they could complete the program part-time and now, in the middle for some of them, they're being told 'sorry you can't do it that way anymore,'" Miss White said.
The INS said it is working with Congress to allow an exemption for part-time commuter students residing in border countries.
In the meantime, D'Youville administrators are discussing ways to allow part-time Canadian students to finish their degrees. Internet courses are a possibility, Mr. Murphy said, as is an exchange program that would allow students to take classes at a Canadian college and receive D'Youville credit.
"Our desire is not to leave them out in the cold," he said. "Many have invested a lot of money to be here."


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