One person familiar with the matter told CNN the White House has felt the blowback to the proposal and that some inside the West Wing believe it was poorly conceived and executed.
According to another source, the White House is now focused on having the rule apply only to new students, rather than students already in the US. The White House declined to comment on an ongoing policy process.
Rice University President David Leebron, speaking on CNN as the announcement was made, said he’s “delighted” at the decision to reverse course.
“We thought the original rules that were suggested were cruel and misguided and didn’t serve our universities, didn’t serve our students and frankly didn’t serve our country,” Leebron said.
Shreeya Thussu, who’s studying molecular biology, told CNN last week that the sudden policy change had thrown her life into turmoil during an already stressful time; this summer she’s been working on applying to medical school.
Thussu, a senior at the University of California at Berkeley and president of the school’s International Students Association, called the news Tuesday a “relief.”
Thussu said she didn’t believe her eyes when she saw the news flash across Facebook Tuesday afternoon. Immediately, she started texting friends, trying to verify what had happened.
“I just hoped that it was real,” she said. “The last couple of days have just been so stressful. The university’s been sending out emails, but giving no information, and it sounded really dire, and kind of told us to enroll in in-person classes if possible. A lot of us were super anxious, so this is really good.”
ICE did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Visa requirements for students have always been strict and coming to the US to take online-only courses has been prohibited. ICE maintained that prohibition in its July 6 guidance, while providing some flexibility for hybrid models, meaning a mix of online and in-person classes.
The agency suggested that students currently enrolled in the US consider other options, like transferring to schools with in-person instruction.
“If a school isn’t going to open or if they’re going to be 100% online, then we wouldn’t expect people to be here for that,” acting Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli told CNN’s Brianna Keilar last week.
This story is breaking and will be updated.
CNN’s Sonia Moghe, Pamela Brown, Kevin Liptak, and Catherine Shoichet contributed to this report.