International students face financial obstacles

Going to college is becoming increasingly expensive with the rising cost of tuition, but tuition is just one financial obstacle for undergraduate international students who need to have enough money for the first year of school and prove an ability to pay for every year of college before even entering the country.”Some families in Third World countries might live quite comfortably, but their entire yearly income is still less than the cost of our tuition for a year,” said Karen Scott, director of international admission.

Yet, according to the Office of Admission, about 473 international students from 80 countries attend TCU.

The 10 countries with the largest number of students (including graduate and Intensive English Program students) are China, South Korea, India, Columbia, Guatemala, Vietnam, Mexico, Nepal, Canada and Panama.

This means eight of the 10 countries with the largest representation at the university are countries with a gross domestic product per capita of less than $15,000.

The total estimated cost for undergraduate international students to attend TCU this year is $37,598, which means international students must be able to prove to the U.S. government they can pay $150,392 over four years if they have no financial aid.

“Not all students can afford to study at TCU or in the U.S.,” Karen Scott wrote in an e-mail while on a recruiting trip. “The most needy students have to be very talented academically in order to get a good scholarship and financial aid package, so we often draw the top students from a given school.”

Scholarships

Mike Scott, director of financial aid, said international students are eligible for both need-based and academic scholarships but not for state or federal funding.

“Sometimes we have athletes from other countries who have partial to full scholarships,” said Joan Yates, administrative assistant for international admission.

Kyle Yates, the assistant director of athletics compliance, said there are 26 student athletes at TCU that are non-U.S. citizens.

If a student’s financial situation were to change for any reason, international students may reapply for additional need-based funds through a process similar to what U.S. students go through, Mike Scott said. This process involves filing an application with updated information, but instead of going to the federal government like the Free Application for Federal Student Aid would for U.S. students, this application goes through an internal process at the university level.

“The only time that we would be able to grant additional aid is if there is a substantial change in a family’s financial situation, but that is predicated on whether there is money available when that occurs,” Mike Scott said.

Sponsorships

“Many families pool their resources from relatives and family friends in order to send one bright student to study in the U.S.,” Karen Scott said in an e-mail.

Joan Yates said because international students have to prove to the U.S. government an ability to pay for all four years of college before entering the country, students must fill out a sponsorship form provided by the university.

While students may have multiple sponsors, each sponsor must agree to pay for each year of college and agree to increase the sponsorship amount as TCU education and living expenses increase, according to the form.

The form also requires each sponsor to provide a bank statement or other form of financial verification to prove his or her ability to fund the student’s education.

John Singleton, director of international student services, said although it is not common for alumni to sponsor new students, it occasionally happens and is an acceptable way for students to satisfy their sponsorship requirement.

Loans

Joan Yates said although international students typically cannot get loans in the U.S., they can get loans in their home countries but must ensure those loans are secured for every year of college.

According to EducationUSA, a network of advising centers supported by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, getting a U.S. loan is possible, but it is usually difficult because it requires a U.S. citizen co-signer to act as a guarantor and proof of enrollment.

Employment

International students may only work part time, up to 20 hours, because of U.S. immigration policy. With few exceptions, this employment must be on campus.

According to the EducationUSA Web site, “this income cannot be used as a source of income for any official financial statements.” This means international students may not apply income from U.S. employment toward their student financial statement as proof of ability to pay for college.

EducationUSA recommends students apply for employment as resident assistants because RAs usually receive free accommodation and sometimes a small salary or meal plan.