Funds for foreign students to change

Evans Obonyo relies on a tuition waiver to pay for his schooling at the University, so when he received an e-mail Feb. 7 about changes in the scholarship renewal process, he was worried he’d be sent back to his native country next year.

Obonyo is a 28-year-old freshman from Kenya working toward a degree in electronics and computer technology despite a previous degree in electronics from his home country.

“I wanted to advance and an American degree can help me,” he said, adding that the e-mail he received scared him.

“I didn’t know if I’d be able to complete my studies,” Obonyo said.

As a result of worries like these, the African People’s Association invited Anne Saviers, associate director of the Center for International Programs, to speak at last Friday’s meeting to reassure students they wouldn’t be losing their funds next year.

Obonyo and others who attended were relieved to learn that their educational plans wouldn’t be compromised.

“No one who is currently receiving an international scholarship or tuition is going to lose it,” Saviers told the group of mostly African natives.

She said students need to fill out an application for renewal in order to keep their funding but no one will lose aid as long as they are making satisfactory academic progress. To maintain progress, second-year students must have a 2.5 cumulative grade point average, while juniors must have a 2.75 GPA and seniors must have a 3.0 GPA.

Saviers explained that changes simply resulted from the University’s need for greater accountability in its budget.

“We need to be able to document what we’re doing and how we’re doing it to make sure all people are being treated fairly,” she said.

But she admitted future international students might not be as lucky.

In the 2006-2007 school year, students may not be guaranteed four years of funding, Saviers said, though she emphasized that current students wouldn’t be affected.

She added that in coming years current students will be required to list their community service activities in order to qualify.

According to BGSU’s Office of Institutional Research, there are 226 international undergraduate students at the University’s main campus this semester – many rely on at least minimal aid.

Jozina Sh-Irima, secretary of the APA and native of Tanzania, said the organization asked Saviers to speak at their meeting because many of these students misunderstood the changes being made.

As a senior, Sh-Irima won’t be affected by the changes, but because all African students at the University are members of APA, she said the meeting was very helpful.

“They wanted to know about this because the issue’s very important,” she said.

Students like Obonyo were relieved to learn their financial aid will still be available as long as they fill out the BGSU International Student Scholarship Application online before April 1.

Obonyo said the meeting reassured him that he can keep advancing.

While he plans to return to his native Kenya after graduation, he wants to remain in America until then.

Obonyo said he enjoys the opportunity to study abroad and hopes his American education will pay off when he eventually returns to Kenya.