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ASU's international students face rising costs

International Arizona State University students gather at the Memorial Union building in Tempe to listen to a presentation on scholarships given by the Coaltition of International Students (CIS), and Director of Scholarship Services Arlene Chin, on Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015.

In an ongoing saga of state budget cuts and highly volatile university tuition and fees, there is one ASU student group that occupies a very unique position: international students.

Tuition has increased for both graduate and undergraduate students regardless of residency over the past several years. Recently, this correlates with shrinking state funding for the University.

During the 2004-05 academic year, non-resident undergraduate tuition for students enrolled at ASU in 12 or more credit hours was $6,460 per semester in tuition and fees, according to the ASU Tuition and Fees Schedules. For the 2015-16 academic year, non-resident undergraduates enrolled in 12 or more credit hours paid $12,392 per semester in tuition and fees. International undergraduates, who previously paid the same as domestic non-residents, paid $13,292 per semester in the 2015-16 year. 

The shrinking state budget and subsequent rising costs have been especially noticeable recently. ASU President Michael Crow said in a statement concerning Gov. Ducey’s proposed state budget that ASU’s state funding would be cut by $40.3 million under said budget.

Finance senior Yifan Liu is an international student from China and the president of the Coalition of International Students at ASU.

He said that international students have had to face a 12 percent tuition increase in the last year.

However, unlike other students, international students are generally not eligible for institutional financial aid, and they must rely on other means to finance their education.

“It feels a little bit unfair,” Liu said. “We take the same classes and use the same computers as other students, so why should we have to pay extra?”

That being said, there are resources available for international students.

In response to the recent tuition increase, the Coalition of International Students, led by Liu, entered talks with the University administration. Although a tuition decrease was not achieved, Liu was successful in creating a scholarship workshop targeting international students, which first occurred last Thursday.

“We wanted to tell students how to apply for scholarships, and let them know that if they want actual funding support, they can always find a way,” he said.

Liu that as a senior the recent drastic cost increase will not have a chance to affect him seriously, although he knows it is more difficult for younger students.

Arlene Chin, director of scholarship services at the Financial Aid and Scholarship Services office, spoke at the scholarship workshop about the types of scholarships and the process to apply for them, placing a special emphasis on the essay writing process. 

“Culturally, many of us are not conditioned to be boastful,” Chin said to the assemblage of international students.

This poses a problem, as scholarship applications generally require at least some self-promotion, and scholarships are often a central part of affording school for international students.

Yashwanth Nanda Kumar is an ASU alumnus and international student from India. He was the former head of the Coalition of International Students at ASU, and he witnessed firsthand how international students paid for school if scholarships were not necessarily an option.

“Once I came here, I was pretty much on my own,” Nanda Kumar said. “So, I went around, networked, found people who could help me out — it made the process an easier one after coming to the Untied States.”

He said other students came here using loans or participated in paid internships, but for those who had already used the extent of their resources, the increase in cost presented a real difficulty.

Nanda Kumar emphasized the importance of a network of students.

“We have a very good network of international students, so students could connect with friends or people who have already graduated to somehow make sure that the cost was covered up,” he said. “Many students were still able to have jobs and internships, so it wasn’t as big of a deal for them, but others definitely got by borrowing money and stuff like that.”

Joy White, associate director at the International Students and Scholars Center at ASU, said she, like Nanda Kumar, knows well the various processes and opportunities necessary for international students to study in the U.S.

She wrote in an email that international students need a student visa to study in the U.S, and that to keep that visa, they need to be enrolled full-time.

She said the tuition increase was necessary to make the program competitive with other universities.

“The tuition increase is intended to ensure that we continue to support the unique needs of our international students delivering on both the quality education and collegiate experience that originally attracted them to ASU,” she wrote.

White confirmed that there is generally not institutional financial aid for international students. However, she did mention that there are other options.

“There are employment benefits both on-campus and off-campus with ISSC and (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) authorization,” she wrote. “There is the New American University Scholarship. Students may also engage in on-campus employment such as Teaching and Research Assistantships.”

This last option is particularly attractive for international graduate students, for whom the costs have similarly increased.

Xiaoxiao Wang is a computer science graduate student from China. He came to the U.S looking to experience life on the other half of the world, and to ASU specifically for the weather and the reasonable price compared to other schools across the country.

To get here, he needed to take a language test and submit GRE scores, as well as prove that he could afford to live here for the length of his study.

He said he and his international classmates have definitely felt the impact of rising costs, although some students’ families may be bearing the burden more than they do themselves.

“I know, for most students who choose to come here from China, I think most are sponsored by their parents or family, so I feel they are prepared enough for their academic years here,” he said. “But for me, when I heard about the increase, I thought, ‘Oh, no! They can’t do that,’ but it happened anyway. So, this year, I got a TA (position) at ASU, so I feel much easier to accept that it happened.”

He said some of his friends, he said, are having a more difficult time coping, but on the whole, the increases are not drastic enough to prevent them from studying here.

Finance junior Huijuan Hu, an international student also from China, fits Wang’s description well.

She decided to attend ASU based on a friend’s recommendation of the W.P. Carey school, and like Wang, had to submit transcripts, a language test, an essay and prove that she could afford it.

Her parents are supporting her, she said, and she has not taken on any scholarships.

“My family has had to pay more for my tuition,” Hu said. “I hate the tuition rise for international students. It makes me feel that the government should have been paying more attention when we applied.”

She has taken on a part-time job to relieve some financial pressure from her family, but she said she has to follow the ISSC’s employment rules to keep her visa, meaning that in her case, she cannot work off campus.

Namratha Putta is in the computer science masters program at ASU, and like many others, she is financing her increasingly expensive studies with help from her parents.

She chose to study in the U.S as it presented a wider array of graduate programs, and she picked ASU for its more personally tailored options for study.

“(School fees) are expensive, but I can manage it,” Putta said. “My parents are able to afford it, and I am not too bad financially, but it is still a little costly.”

She has also noted more expensive housing and increases in other fees. However, despite the costs, she feels studying at ASU was worth it.

“I think it will be absolutely worth it, because this is an experience I never imagined I would get,” she said. “The cultural diversity, the professors, the classes — it’s a very different experience than what I would have had in India. The opportunities at ASU still amaze me — you can get into any club and organization and make a real impact on students, so I think it’s absolutely worth it.”

Related Links:

Cost of tuition still an issue for ASU DREAMers

Tuition too high to stomach

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