July 14 (UPI) -- The Trump administration on Tuesday dropped its rule denying visas to international students attending classes entirely online, a federal judge in Boston announced.
The decision means foreign students won't have to choose between returning to their home countries or transferring to a school holding in-person classes during the coronavirus pandemic.
U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs made the surprise announcement ahead of a hearing on a lawsuit brought by Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology challenging the rule.
"I have been informed by the parties that they have come to a resolution," she said at the start of proceedings. "They will return to the status quo."
Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced the new policy July 6 and was shortly met by multiple lawsuits, including one from a coalition of 17 states.
Dozens of U.S. colleges and universities have said they plan to only hold online classes or a mixture of online and in-person coursework starting in the fall in response to the spread of COVID-19. States' stay-at-home orders in the spring forced many to shutter schools entirely in March and April, though many are returning to on-campus learning at the start of the new school year.
President Donald Trump has pushed hard on schools -- from K-12 to college -- to return to business as usual in an effort to reopen the U.S. economy.
Harvard President Larry Bacon said last week that ICE's new policy seemed designed to force schools to reopen campuses for in-person classes "without regard to concerns for the health and safety of students, instructors and others."
"We believe that the ICE order is bad public policy, and we believe that it is illegal," he said.