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A proud champion of radical inclusion, Montgomery College enrolls more than 550 F1 students from more than 120  countries in an average year. As the most diverse community college in the continental U.S., MC values the cultural and intellectual contributions that these students make to the educational processes at our institution, bringing their knowledge of history, politics, and languages from their home countries.

The presence of international students in American classrooms has a long history of building bridges to other nations. In our increasingly interconnected world, students who have spent time abroad often prove to be valuable ambassadors of American democratic principles and intermediaries on trade, international regulations, and global health issues—among other topics.

It is disappointing that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has failed to see the true value of international students, by prohibiting F1 Visa-holders from remaining enrolled at colleges offering only online learning. Online learning has proven to be a vibrant alternative to face-to-face education in the midst of a highly contagious pathogen, allowing students to continue with their education while protecting their health. Such opportunities should be open to international, as well as domestic students. ICE’s decision confounds the broadly accepted public health protocols by requiring students to return to their home countries, putting many of them at risk for infection through air travel. It also punishes students who elect to take advantage of the fastest growing mode of delivery in American higher education, which is online.

As we work to rebuild our local and national economies, the U.S. cannot afford to think of its interests in isolationist terms. Our world faces several complex challenges related to health and economics, and will require researchers, technicians, and healthcare workers to solve them.  Montgomery College’s service to local businesses is the essence of our mission and is necessarily rooted in the international character of our local community. Workforce development programs that are inclusive of international, as well as domestic students, will continue to empower our region economically. Instead of deporting foreign students, Montgomery College embraces them, celebrating the diversity they bring to our classrooms and the strengths they bring to our talent pipeline.

– Dr. DeRionne P. Pollard is the president of Montgomery College, a three-campus community college with 56,000 credit and noncredit students.

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