New U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) regulations on international students is creating uncertainty on New Mexico university campuses. ICE issued a news release Monday that restricts students who are on F-1 and M-1 nonimmigrant visas. Students on F-1 visas pursue academic coursework while students on M-1 visas take vocational training. ICE’s new regulation prohibits students on F-1 and M-1 visas from remaining in the U.S. legally if they take online course work only. During the start of the pandemic, when many colleges, including New Mexico State University, shifted to online only classes, ICE made an exception for international students because it was the middle of the semester, said Seth Miner, director of admissions, orientation and international student and scholar services for NMSU.
The University of New Mexico is banning most travel to areas impacted by the coronavirus, including all areas of the United States that have declared states of emergency over the growing pandemic. UNM President Garnett Stokes announced this in an email to UNM students and staff on Tuesday. The university is also discussing “everything from sick leave to how we can accommodate classes remotely if needed,” Stokes wrote. In addition, the email says UNM’s “clinical facilities are prepared to receive a patient with COVID-19.”
The university also outlined cases where they will ask students, staff or faculty to self-isolate for 14 days. This includes anyone who has come into contact with someone with a confirmed case of coronavirus or who has been diagnosed with coronavirus.
The outlook for Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s tuition-free college scholarship, one of her signature initiatives for the legislative session, had started to seem dubious. A budget bill the House passed last week for fiscal year 2021 included $35 million for financial aid programs — but no funding for the New Mexico Opportunity Scholarship that Lujan Grisham had announced with fanfare in the fall. The effort would boost enrollment and graduation numbers at state colleges and universities, she said, and strengthen the state’s workforce. But legislators had raised concerns that her proposal didn’t do enough to direct funding toward the lowest-income students. The Governor’s Office and lawmakers collaborated on an overhaul to address those concerns, and the House Education Committee renewed hope Monday that her plan to ultimately provide free tuition could become a reality for some 55,000 eligible New Mexico students each year who attend in-state schools.