New international students freshman and graduate students can not start online. What a mess!
They cannot come to the US a student visa and start in a fully online program. They could however enroll in a fully online program and study outside the US. This isn’t a new policy. I completed my MS Ed TESOL in a fully online program. Many of my classmates were in other countries. They came to the US on a tourist visa when it was time to present their final projects to the department.
There also is the very real possibility that most new international students won’t even be able to get their student visas for on-campus programs this year. Many consulates are still on lockdown and not holding student visa interviews.
International students who have been recently admitted to undergrad or graduate studies in the US for fall 2020 need to think things through very carefully. Is this a good year to travel to the US at all? Would it make better sense to defer enrollment, and wait a semester or year? Would it make better sense to accept an admission offer in Canada/Australia/New Zealand/anywhere that things are looking better right now?
Students who are facing an online-only option need to decide whether or not it is worth it to start a US degree online from outside the US if there is the chance that that degree will move back into on-campus status, and there is the possibility that a student might be denied a student visa at that time. Would the student be able to complete their degree program remotely? Would the student have to start all over somewhere else somehow?