Increase funding to support international students

Megan Tran, Associate Editor

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared as part of the September 21 flipbook.

International students provide a variety of benefits for a college campus. They help foster cultural diversity within the student community, provide valuable cross-cultural perspectives and even contribute millions to the university economy. 

Yet, over the last year, international students have faced delays in email responses, limited individual advising opportunities and lengthy application processing times. 

This must change. International Student and Scholar Services provides vital resources and support for international students, but the department’s services are limited by its budget. UT, prioritize your international students and increase funding for ISSS. 

ISSS director Margaret Luévano explained the services and resources the department provides to international students. 

“A team of highly trained student advisors in ISSS ensures that both the university and international students maintain compliance with complex and often nuanced immigration relations,” Luévano said in an email. “In addition to immigration advising, ISSS provides orientation for new students, financial aid, health insurance support and ongoing educational, cultural and social programming.”

Luévano explained that the mandatory ISSS Support Services Fee of $125 per semester helps maintain the department’s specialized services. Because ISSS wants students to help pay for resources that the department provides, it’s also reasonable for international students to become frustrated when they don’t receive adequate support.  

Rosemarijn van de Lint, a double bass performance sophomore and international student from the Netherlands, described her experiences with ISSS during the last year. 

“I’m in the application process for an (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number), and it’s a pretty complicated process,” van de Lint said. “I just didn’t know where to start, and it would have been very nice if ISSS could have supported me and told me where to go, what to do. It takes ISSS two or three weeks to respond to an email … (and) they’ll usually just send me to the Frequently Asked Questions page or the ISSS page where my problem is explained, but I’ve looked that up already, (and I wish) they could make (their help) more personal.”

If students have to wait several weeks for an email response, they at least deserve a personalized one — not just a link to the public ISSS website. 

T. Nguyen, an international student whose first name has been withheld for privacy reasons, confirmed that email responses from ISSS often take weeks and expressed her frustration with the department. 

“I feel really tired because (international students) can have very important, emergency questions that need to be answered as soon as possible, but those late responses (from ISSS) make me want to quit,” Nguyen said. “It feels like we are spending our money (and) receiving no (services) at all.” 

Because international students aren’t eligible for federal aid, they usually don’t receive financial assistance from the university. This means they pay high tuition rates that are well over three times the cost of in-state tuition, yet they receive minimal support from UT. 

“We worked vigilantly throughout the summer to add staff and improve our processes in ISSS,” Luévano said. “Additional staff will be added in the coming months.” 

While this is a good start, UT can do more. With the second largest endowment in the nation, the University has the money to allocate more funding to ISSS and enable the department to better support international students. With increased funding, ISSS could offer more scholarships, yearly advising appointments or established advisors for international students.  

“Studying in the US is a very special experience, and it’s hard at times with administration, but it is worth it,” van de Lint said. “I just wish I had support from the university too”.

 Tran is a Plan II and English sophomore from Houston, Texas.