U offers relief for Asian students

by Stacy Jo

Although he hasn’t returned to his native Korea in the last few years, Patrick Robinson knows the economic conditions there are grim.
“Many men pretend to go to work and spend the day in subway stations, drinking and smoking,” Robinson said.
Despite their residency in the United States, not all Asian students at the University have been immune to the effects of a downward-spiraling Asian economy.
However, for the second year, financial assistance from the University’s International Student and Scholar Services offices is assuring that Asian international students remain less affected than Asian students at many other U.S. universities.
And this year their financial aid restructuring has prepared them to accommodate students in financial crisis.
Beginning in the summer of 1997, Asian economies experienced an economic slump attributed to a rapid build-up in asset prices, a devaluation of currency and weak financial institutions, said Ethan Kapstein, Stassen professor of international peace at the University.
While East Asian countries were most severely affected — particularly Indonesia, Thailand and Korea — the crisis spread into Russia and Latin America. While he predicts the economic slump will eventually reach the United States, Kapstein said hope for global financial stability still rests domestically.
“Everything is on the shoulders of the U.S. right now,” Kapstein said.
Although this year’s statistics on the number of Asian students attending the University are not yet available, more than half of the University’s 4,100 international students came from Asian countries last year, most of whom received financial assistance.
Only “a handful” of these students had to return to their home countries last year as a result of the crisis, said Mohammed Bari, director of financial aid for the office.
In order to accommodate the Asian international students who needed financial assistance, the office reorganized their financial allotments by allowing one-half and one-quarter tuition waivers, rather than only full — and therefore fewer — tuition waivers.
Because the office did not receive additional funds to allot to students as a result of the crisis, more students received financial awards while the amount per student declined.
Bari acknowledged that the crisis caught office staff off-guard, particularly because it happened during the end of the financial awarding period when funds were limited. The office staff is prepared for similar happenings in the future, Bari said.
“We are taking into consideration that all international students may be affected,” Bari said.
Without financial assistance from the University, Indonesian student Alexander Sugianto and his two siblings could not afford to finish college in the United States.
Sugianto said many students attending college in his home country have been forced to drop out because of financial constraints. With high inflation rates, businesses operating near bankruptcy and scarcity of food, Sugianto said his people’s outlook remains grim.
“Right now, (Indonesian) people are pessimistic about the economic future,” Sugianto said.
Long Zhang, a graduate student from China, said the number of Chinese students at the University remained level despite the crisis. Zhang attributes this to the large number of Chinese graduate students at the University who receive financial support.
As one of the least affected Asian countries, China should step forward to assist its neighbors in need, Zhang said.
“There’s a need for a country with a strong economy to support other countries,” Zhang said.