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Harrisburg University switches gears following federal mandate on foreign students, online instruction

The facade of Harrisburg University’s main academic building on Market Street.

Harrisburg University had planned for an online-only start to the school year. However, facing the loss of most of its student body, it has quickly changed its approach.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced on Monday that international students attending schools conducting online-only courses would not be issued visas and need to either leave the country or transfer to other schools. Those who don’t comply may face deportation.

This would have led to a loss of 75% to 85% of HU’s total student body, said HU President Eric Darr.

“We had very few options,” Darr said. “Our view, like most in higher education, is that it’s a terrible decision.”

HU had planned to begin the new semester with an online-only instruction model, given the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it now will implement an “executive delivery model” in which students take a mixture of online and in-person courses. This means that an entire three-credit class will be completed in-person over the course of three weekends, and the rest will be taught online.

This approach will follow ICE’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program orders, allowing students to remain in the United States.

Many other schools face a similar situation. This morning, Massachusetts schools Harvard University and MIT sued immigration authorities, calling for a restraining order prohibiting the enforcement of the order.

Fortunately for HU, the school has used the “executive delivery model” in the past, so Darr isn’t concerned about quickly changing plans.

He did say that he worries about what will happen if CDC guidelines change and courses must revert to online-only.

“That’s an unresolved dilemma,” he said. “But we will be ready and prepared for whatever happens.”

Harrisburg University is located at 326 Market St., Harrisburg. For more information, visit


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