FRESNO, Calif. (KGPE) — With many colleges and universities moving towards virtual classes, hundreds of thousands of international students won’t be able to study in the USA.

On Monday, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement said international students must leave the country if their classes are online.

“You know we are in the midst of worldwide pandemic and we are pulling the rug right from under our students,” said Merced College Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Mike McCandless.

According to a report from the National Association for Student Affairs, international students contribute $41 billion to the nation’s economy.

The study went on to break it down by state and university.

California’s economy benefits by around $7 billion and supports over 70,000 jobs.

Fresno State international students contribute close to $30 million and over 300 jobs.

“It really caught us by surprise,” said Fresno State Associated Student Executive Vice President. “None of us expected anything like this to happen.”

The news from ICE comes as most of the world shuts down to slow the spread of the novel Coronavirus.

“A lot of our students did go home at the end of the spring semester,” said Fresno State’s Chief Justice of Student Court Lauryn Flores. “Just the thought of not being about to come back? It’s devastating.”

Most of the colleges and universities are working on a workaround but Dr. Mike McCandless said he believes the students will have trust issues in the future.

“I think this will halt some of our international studies,” said McCandless. “Or at least slow them down. Even after we recover from the pandemic.”

Statement from UC Merced President Janet Napolitano:

“The University of California recognizes that our country benefits when the world’s brightest students and academics learn, teach, and research on our shores. International students provide unique contributions that enrich our campuses and their perspectives ensure that we continue to be a leading academic force around the world. Making it more difficult for international students to study here undermines decades of collaboration between the United States and our international partners, particularly in fields that contribute to America’s economic vitality.

“ICE’s announcement is perplexing, given that some degree of remote instruction is necessary for colleges and universities to protect the safety and well-being of their communities and the public at large, while still allowing students to continue their studies. Challenges and uncertainty related to COVID-19 are already weighing heavily on students; now is the worst time to burden them further with anxiety.

UC will assess fully how these changes will affect our campuses and our international students. However, this much is abundantly clear: The Trump administration’s latest actions impacting international students jeopardize our nation’s future as a worldwide leader in research and innovation.”

Statement from California State University Director of Public Affairs Toni Molle:

“International students add to the vibrant diversity of CSU’s 23 campuses. The new policy guidance from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) could immediately lead to slowing or even worse, halting of more than 11,300 students’ paths to achieving their higher education goals and potential contributions to our communities and economy. We are currently reviewing the new guidance to determine how to reduce impacts to students and will provide information to campuses and students in the near future.

The Chancellor’s Office is currently working with individual campuses to re-review online and in-person offerings to determine if they meet the new ICE directives.”