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International students help fund study abroad for all Ohio State students

T.J. McGarry / Lantern photographer

It has been 10 months since Ohio State’s Board of Trustees agreed on the annual $1,000 fee for international students, and some think international students shouldn’t bear the burden.
“We have not received the funds yet,” said Gifty Ako-Adounvo, director of the Office of International Affairs. “The university will release the funds to us on July 1.”
The funds have not been used because “the fee was not collected at the beginning of the budget cycle of 2012-2013,” said Kelechi Kalu, associate provost for global strategies and international affairs, and therefore the money is not spendable.
An estimated $1 million has already been collected from first-year international students that enrolled after Fall Semester, with $554,500 collected this semester, Ako-Adounvo said.
After four years, the total revenue generated from the international student fee will reach about $6 million per year.
Ako-Adounvo said the money will provide OIA the opportunity to initiate new programs, including pre-departure orientation set to start this summer at OSU’s gateway locations in China and aims to prepare international students before coming to OSU.
An airport welcome program that will meet students when they land in Columbus will be implemented, as well as a cross-cultural training program for academic advisers to “provide better communication,” Ako-Adounvo said. “The idea is to try to make students’ entry experiences a lot smoother and less (full) of anxiety.”
The money will also go into OSU’s Walter E. Dennis Learning Center to provide “more robust and more continuous academic success programs for international students” on subjects like note-taking and time management.
From the projected revenues of the international student fee provided by OIA spokeswoman Maureen Miller, 55 percent of the fee will go into academic and service enhancements including Student Life, 25 percent will go toward study abroad scholarships and institutional risk management with the last 20 percent funding information sharing.
However, since 25 percent of the revenues will benefit study abroad programs, which will provide funds for all students, some think the fee is unfair.
Andrew Lin, a fourth-year in sociology and domestic student, was among those who protested the fee at the Board of Trustee’s meeting Friday.
“International students are already studying abroad and therefore the money would most likely be used only by domestic students. If that’s the case, (domestic students) are the ones who should have to pay for those benefits,” Lin said.
Miller said 83 international students participated in study abroad programs during the 2011-2012 academic year, compared to roughly 1,700 domestic students. Miller said statistics for the 2012-2013 academic year are not yet available.
Ako-Adounvo said she’s aware of the objections to the fee, but it was something that had to be done.
Others agreed and said if the money is being used for domestic students to study abroad, domestic students should be paying for it.
“I think it is kind of unfair, especially because the education here is so expensive and having one more expense makes it even harder,” said Catalina Fernandez, a graduate student in kinesiology from Costa Rica.
Ako-Adounvo gave an example of how the university funded services for international students when the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) first came out, requiring the OIA to put in extra work and funding so the university could have international students.
“There are things that are very different for international students that domestic students have funded all these years,” Ako-Adounvo said. “And now, (the university is) trying to find other ways to meet all of these needs.”
Miller said after the Board approved the fee in June, OSU vice provost Joseph Alutto sent out an email to all the incoming international undergraduate students to notify them of the change.
Despite the warning, some first-year international students said they were disturbed to know that they were the first ones charged the extra $500 per semester.
“Why start from us?” said Liyin Huang, a first-year in business from China. “What special benefits did we get from the fee?”
Neither Huang nor Zhen Shuai, a first-year in civil engineering and mathematics from China, checked their tuition breakdown on BuckeyeLink before they made their way to the U.S. and said most international students wouldn’t think to do that.
“We international students know from the start that it is going to be expensive to study abroad in the U.S.,” Huang said. “So we didn’t bother to check the detailed breakdown of the fee. It is not until I arrived here that I knew we were the first ones that’s been charged (the fee).”
Shuai agreed.
“Even if we saw the breakdown of the fee, we wouldn’t know if the fee had been charged before. How can we argue?” Shuai said.

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