U students discuss alternate tuition funding after Asian stock market crash

Sarah Hallonquist

Jokes and laughter covered the worried expressions on the faces of University Korean students Friday night as they patiently brainstormed for ways to pay this quarter’s tuition.
About 30 students, both graduates and undergraduates, attended the special Korean Student Association meeting at Coffman Memorial Union.
The recent market crashes in Southeast Asia are causing international students from South Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines to find different sources of money for tuition and living expenses. Many of these students receive funding from their government or parents while they complete their education in the United States. But as the exchange rates continue to fluctuate, the students find they get less money from home.
“The first thing I check is the exchange rates,” said Jeong Hoon An, a political science undergraduate who recently got an on-campus job to make up the funding difference his parents can’t send him anymore.
An is among three students chosen by Friday’s group to communicate with University administrators about addressing the financial crunch. Because the undergraduate and graduate students have different financial needs, the group chose students from both areas to represent their concerns.
As a starting point, the students drew up a list of suggestions for the University. They include:
ù Applying resident tuition rates to students who do not receive financial support from their department such as graduate or teaching assistantships.
ù Making available long-term loans with low interest rates.
ù Alerting departments of the economic crisis and urging them to hire international students as teaching or research assistants.
ù Allowing international students to work off campus temporarily (which is currently illegal under Immigration and Naturalization Service regulations).
In addition, the Korean Student Association is planning “Korean Culture Night” for February. Originally intended as a showcase for Korean art and music, the celebration will now focus on raising money to help struggling students pay their tuition or living expenses. Brandon Cho, the association’s president, said they will sell crafts and ask for donations from the Twin Cities’ Korean community.
Meanwhile, the University has begun responding to the students’ requests. The office of International Student and Scholar Services is holding informational sessions this week for all international students affected by the economic crisis.
“This affects many, many students who had normally not had financial difficulties probably any time in their life,” said director Kay Thomas. She noted that between 50 and 60 students contacted her office last week with concerns and questions related to the market plight in Asia.
The University will also be sending a memo to all faculty and staff members sometime this week to inform them of the problem. Bob Kvavik, associate vice president and executive officer, said the memo will ask colleges and departments to look to their resources for any way to help their own international students. The help could come in the form of scholarships, loans or job opportunities. Kvavik said the memo is a way to reassure students that their concerns are heard.
One student, who asked that her name be withheld, said she found it frustrating when she tried to explain to her advisor how the economic crisis was affecting her. When her department did not renew her assistantship for winter quarter, she panicked. Eventually, after alerting them to the Asian market problems, a job was created for her so she could afford tuition.
“Even though they read newspapers everyday, they may not be connecting those things to their Korean students,” she said. “We really want them to know about us.”
While the University alerts staff and faculty, administrators will continue to collect information and work with students on a case-by-case basis.
“We have no interest in driving students home,” Kvavik said. “In one sense, they’ve made a decision to come here and, like any student, we’ve made an investment in them just as much as they’ve made an investment here.”
He said the University has faced this problem before with students from Iran and Nigeria. When the governments couldn’t afford to send money, a delayed payment plan was set up, and the University eventually received all the money.