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Faculty unsure about waiver resolution

In an effort to help 14 international students continue their education at the University, several faculty members proposed a resolution that passed during a Faculty Senate meeting several weeks ago.

The resolution addressed concerns over unresolved issues regarding international fee waivers. Authors of the resolution asked the University to continue support for the affected students through spring 2009, or until they complete their degree program within the 10 semesters expected.

“While we empathize with the financial constraints of the University, we also empathize with the need to support our current international students,” said Kristie Foell, director of the International Studies Program and Global Village.

And while 41 of 56 Faculty Senate members approved the proposed resolution, not everyone agreed with what was outlined in the proposal.

Senior Vice President for Academic Programs Mark Gromko is one of the people opposed to the recent resolution.

“[Undergraduate Student Government] presented a resolution on the international fee waiver situation which represents a more accurate understanding of the situation,” Gromko said in an e-mail. “I therefore support USG’s resolution.”

USG’s resolution, which was passed Nov. 4 and forwarded to University administrators Oct. 8, proposes that affected students meet with the director of the Center for International Programs, a financial aid officer, a representative from the Bursar’s office and their academic advisor to “construct an academic plan to prepare them to graduate as soon as possible and a financial plan that will help them pay for the remainder of their education …” The resolution concluded that USG supports the CIP’s future plans to become more financially self-supporting, and that the proposed resolution may include scholarships, grants and students loans.

But Foell feels that USG’s resolution doesn’t solve any of the problems.

“I don’t think USG offers a real solution to the issue,” Foell said.

With the University facing budget constraints across the board, there are arguments that money is not available to continue waiving the tuition for international students.

“To the argument that there is no money, we acknowledge the crisis, but think it’s [the] administrators’ job to figure out how to prioritize this,” Foell said.

As of now, there are 14 students who are affected by the decision to no longer waive tuition fees.

“The remaining 14 African students can’t take their spring classes [or] get their diploma if they’re graduating, so they are kind of stuck,” Foell said.

Senior Shannon Thompson has been working closely with the international students since the fee waiver issue became an issue in Summer 2008.

“The nature of the situation is very unfair and confusing,” Thompson said. “Many of the students are scared because they don’t know what to do.”

Over the summer, several international students were informed they would no longer be receiving fee waivers.

This resulted in confusion since many of the students did not have a way to come up with the money to make payments for their tuition.

“International students aren’t able to work off campus and aren’t eligible for FAFSA aid that domestic students can apply for,” Foell said. “And while they are eligible for private loans, they need an American co-signer, which is very hard to get.”

Additionally, most of the students affected come from poor African countries, which makes receiving an education that much more important, Thompson said.

“There aren’t as many opportunities to receive an education as in the United States, and for the students coming from Africa, they are coming from places with a per capita income of around $1,000,” Thompson said.

Foell added that many of the international students working the maximum 20 hours on campus allowed often send the money back to their home countries to help their families.

“I know of [international] students who are working and then give that money back to help support their families,” Foell said.

Many of the issues related to funding stem from the fact that many of the agreements made to international students were made by word of mouth, “which contributes to the confusion,” said Nancy Patterson, one of the authors of the resolution.

Patterson decided to help the international students out of compassion and concern.

“I felt like they needed an advocate, someone who could help them out,” Patterson said.

Until further progress is made regarding the international fee waiver situation, Foell has started a fundraising program called the Beauregard Fund to raise money for international students wanting to continue their studies.

“Many of these students are just a semester or two away from graduation,” Foell said.

Since the passage of the faculty senate resolution, a memo was sent to University interim President Carol Cartwright requesting a meeting regarding the new resolution proposed.

Cartwright has agreed to meet with a few authors of the resolution, a couple of affected international students and others on Dec. 19.

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