Asian students need University support

Many of the University’s Asian students face a serious problem: Their funds for school are drying up. Because of the collapse of several Asian currencies, the dollar value of money sent to students by their families has declined. If American students faced a similar problem, they could simply find work or a second job to make up the difference. But current federal immigration laws prevent foreign students from holding most jobs. Meanwhile, almost 500,000 students nationwide are affected. These students are in crisis; many might be forced to leave their studies and return home. Some students are only a few quarters from graduation, making a cut off in funds more critical for them.
Kay Thomas, the University’s director of International Student and Scholar Services, recently requested that the Board of Regents offer tuition waivers to affected students. Depending on student need, the Foreign Student Tuition Waiver will cover 25, 50 or 100 percent of non-resident tuition. A 100 percent waiver would reduce a student’s cost to resident tuition. For those who cannot even pay resident rates, deferments are under consideration as a backup.
These actions will cost the University money, mostly in the form of lost revenue. But the University should help Asian students. It’s the right thing to do. More can be done also to help affected students help themselves. Rep. Mike Jaros, DFL-Duluth, chairman of the House International Affairs Committee, is calling on the federal government to temporarily lift the work ban. The real problem is the work ban. Unemployment is not a problem on or off campus. On any given day a cruise through the Student Employment Center reveals a plethora of open positions. The federal restrictions are designed to ensure that foreign students are really here to study. But for Asian students, the point is moot. Without work, many won’t be able to study at all.
But Jaros is probably tilting at windmills. So while students affected by the crash are caught in a web of unfriendly federal rules, pressure is on schools to find their own solutions. Asia’s problems will probably get worse before they get better, so the University needs to find ways to help.
A special Korean Student Association meeting at Coffman Union recently suggested making available long-term loans with low interest rates and increasing hiring of international students in academic departments. Fund-raising events are planned. The International Student and Scholar Services is working to provide consultation and guidance during the crisis. Jobs, loans, scholarships and fundraisers are the solution. Every department across campus needs to be alerted to the problem and included in the solution.
The University community shouldn’t think of this as a problem affecting foreigners. Those affected are simply students who need help. The University has a proud tradition of helping students affected by disaster. Waivers and deferments have been offered before, to students whose countries have suffered economic collapse or political crisis. Last year it reached out to students hurt by the Red River flood. All members of the University community should work to ensure Asia’s economic maelstrom doesn’t drown our fellow students.