Parents of Bahamians college students fearful as U.S. COVID-19 cases soar

Parents of Bahamians college students fearful as U.S. COVID-19 cases soar
Credit: Hartford Courant

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Some parents of Bahamian students enrolled in American colleges said they feel trapped in limbo as the United States continues to grapple with soaring COVID-19 cases.

Debbie Hamilton-Cooper’s daughter is a student at Florida Memorial.

“I’m terrified of the fact that where her school is in Miami Gardens is the epicenter right now for coronavirus…I’m terrified,” she told Eyewitness News in an interview yesterday.

The United States again shattered its daily record for coronavirus infections on Thursday, reporting more than 77,000 new cases.

Last week, the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced that all international students who are pursuing degrees in the country will have to leave if their universities switch to online-only courses or risk deportation.

The Trump administration rescinded the policy on Tuesday after nationwide backlash over the proposal that would impact more than one million international students in the United States.

Hamilton-Cooper said the university has advised international students that they have to physically return to campus or risk losing their student visas or scholarship if they do not attend the Fall 2020 Semester.

She said she reached out to the university’s admissions department but was told that the policy will stand.

However, explained that her daughter returned to The Bahamas on March 19 after the country began to close its borders to the world and had been doing online courses until the school closed at the end of May.

She questioned why students could not be given the option to continue distance learning from their home countries or attend the university’s proposed in-person classes.

“I feel like I’m being held hostage here to send my child back into this epicenter just to accommodate your quota and pay for room and board and tuition because I’m paying the full ride,” Hamilton-Cooper said.

“I feel that y’all are not treating the international students fair, it’s not fair.”

“Why would they leave here and go into Miami?

“…A lot of parents feel some type of way, because we shouldn’t be held hostage to send our child back into a disease infected place.”

Hamilton-Cooper noted that she has already paid a non-refundable deposit fee to secure a semi-private dorm room for her daughter for the upcoming semester.

However, she said there is no guarantee on the number of roomates she can expect.

“Other schools, other Black colleges have opted to give the international students an option,” she said.

“They can either do it online or they can come back, it’s their choice.

“Give me that option, don’t throw it down my throat and tell me that I have to come, and if I don’t come she loses the seat.”

She noted that while other parents of international may have the same concerns, many may not be vocal because their child is on a scholarship program.

Betty Thompson, whose name has been changed to hide her identity, expressed similar concern for her son who is a scholarship student at Florida Memorial.

Thompson said she is her son received an advisory that Fall 2020 semester classes will be held in person,

It noted that “all international students, new and returning, are required to be issued new I-20s with notation of how classes will be conducted for the Fall 2020”.

Thompson, however, fears that her son’s scholarship is also at risk if he does not return to the campus.

“It’s scary because you sending your child into a danger zone,” she said. “You see all the cases over there, it’s far more than we have over here.”

She indicated that she would also much rather her son continue taking online classes from home.

“If he going to do online classes why he just can’t do it from here, ” Thompson said.

“I could save that room and board money if he just will be home inside the house doing his courses.

“…They could let us decide instead of pushing it on us.”

She noted that be given the changes to the Trump administration’s policy, it remains unclear what the way forward will be as it relates to international students.

Thompson said she just hopes that it is fair and accommodating to the many different situations of international students in the country.