Tuesday, October 2, 2012

University’s international students are under financial pressure, having no choice but to escape

With the number of international students growing year by year, the recent economic downturn hurt many international students, and the economic problems concerned with international students are becoming more apparent.

“I think the university takes too much money from the international students,” Ahn Songyi, an international student from Korea who currently has a hard time meeting the rigorous demands under a tight budget, said.

International students attend school under conditions which are different from American students. Since international students cannot get students loans and are not allowed to work outside the campus, most students have a complex financial problem. They cannot have a social security number which is a basic requirement to make a contract, such as housing and other getting a loan for a car. The only way they can take action without a social security is if they can get a campus job, so everything costs higher than students who are residents.  

Moreover, the problems that international students face are often problems which are out of their control. For example, the international student must take 12 units of classes to meet the requirements for their visa status and stay in the United States, but the colleges often cut class sizes due to the bad conditions of the economy, making it difficult for the students to enroll in enough courses to prevent deportation. Furthermore, international students have to pay more money in fees per unit in addition to the tuition residents pay, so they cannot drop the class as easily as a resident student.

“Because of the class cut, I couldn't enroll in classes which are requirements for my major, so I ended up taking a dance class in order to meet 12 units. I want to finish my degree as soon as possible so that I don’t have to waste my money anymore,” Eiko Matsumoto, majoring in Economics, said.

She was supposed to graduate next spring, but because she couldn’t take classes for her major this semester, she will not graduate on time. “I have no choice, but since I receive the money to pay for school from my parents, the more expensive the tuition becomes, the more I worry about my parents and whether they can afford to take care of me,” Matsumoto said. Students must rely on their parents for support, but are made to feel guilty because they are far away from home and their parents are still working.

“There are many international students who are having a hard time to enroll in classes every semester,” the staff at the Center for International Education (CIE), Anh Do, said. These students need to talk with the international student adviser, Ignacio Castor, to deal with their issues first and also make an appointment with an academic adviser to see if they have any choices to make up for their classes, she said.

Because of these reasons, international students, especially those who do not receive financial aid and have to pay tuition and living expenses all by themselves, have to keep worrying about money. Some students are forced to go back to their country since they cannot afford to attend the school even though they wish to keep studying in the U.S.

Jing Yu, an international student from China, expressed how difficult it is to stay in the United States. Besides the school, I also worry about my health” she said. “The health insurance that I am required to buy from the school doesn't cover every medication. The insurance is expensive, and the medicine is also expensive. If I get sick, I cannot pay for it.”

International students have troubles that relate not only about the school but also their living conditions. Considering all the financial pressure that international students have, it would be great if universities could offer more opportunities for them to apply into the financial aid system, such as offering more scholarships and opportunities for jobs with flexible schedules, since it is difficult for international students to earn money while they attend school because of strict restrictions.

All of this puts international students in a situation that, even though they have the desire to study in the United States, they come across one obstacle after another, which ultimately drives them back home.

The university administration needs to create an environment in which the burden on international students living in the U.S. is shared by society as a whole. This is because in a country that believes in equality; shouldn’t international students be offered the same opportunity to study as American students? 

Photo by Chie Uraki

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