Graduate students concerned by imbalanced international student fees

Graduate student leaders are asking administrators why international student fees are higher at the University of Minnesota than other Big Ten schools.

Niamh Coomey

Graduate student government at the University of Minnesota recently expressed concern about high fees for international graduate students at the University in comparison to fees at other Big Ten schools.

Research done by the Council of Graduate Students in 2013 shows that, at the time, the University had the highest international student fees in the Big Ten conference. Last week, COGS passed a resolution in light of the research to start a conversation with University administration about the differences in fees between universities.

International graduate student fees at the University were almost twice as high as the fees of the next highest university, Iowa State University, according to the COGS research. International graduate students at the University of Minnesota paid $1,590 in student fees over ten semesters, while international graduate students at Iowa State paid $850 in student fees over the same amount of time.

The COGS resolution asks for updated information on the topic in order to increase understanding of the fees and how the money is used. The inquiry has been presented to the Office of the President and to International Student and Scholar Services.

The resolution, passed by COGS on April 30, estimates the cost of international student fees has risen since 2013, noting that it is now likely closer to $1,790 over ten semesters.

COGS President Sean Chen emphasized that the resolution is not intended to question the quality of service provided by ISSS. It hopes to start a conversation around the topic and understand exactly how student fees are used.

“No one is questioning the great quality of service ISSS has been providing to international students, and no one wants that to be reduced,” Chen said. “How do we balance the affordability and the quality of service?”

Barbara Kappler, the assistant dean for ISSS, has been leading the efforts to find updated student fee data. In an emailed statement to the Minnesota Daily, Kappler said ISSS has reached out to other Big Ten universities and is collecting more current information about student fees.

“After receiving and reviewing the responses, ISSS hopes to be in a better position to explain the differences in the fees across institutions,” the statement reads.

Student fees were brought to COGS’ attention again after the non-resident non-reciprocity tuition raise earlier this year, Chen said. He said the issue of high student fees ties into a larger conversation about affordability, adding that student fee costs often go overlooked by students.

”Fees are less looked at by people. So you may sometimes see that there might be a higher fee, but people aren’t talking about that,” Chen said.

COGS President-elect Tommy Keller also noted the lack of awareness that many students have when it comes to what they are paying. He said it’s typical for students not to question the fees they are required to pay.

“I’m inclined to think that there’s an information barrier there to people being concerned about [fees],” Keller said.

The majority of international graduate student fees go toward funding ISSS, and differences in student fees across universities can be attributed to a large array of factors, Kappler said in the email.

Kappler also stated fees can depend on what services are provided by international service offices and the amount of central funding allocated to the office, among other reasons.

Keller said he has plans to meet with administration in the coming weeks once results from other universities have been collected to discuss the findings and the next steps.

“All I’m doing is making sure that we are receiving the benefits for the money that we are giving the University,” Keller said.