University of Cincinnati suspends new international student fee after outcry

But plans to bring fee back next fall

CINCINNATI -- University of Cincinnati has suspended collection of a new international student fee after months of protests from students.

UC implemented a special fee for international students for the first time this fall, planning to charge them $150 each semester. The money was collected this semester but won't be in the spring.

"The fee has been waived for spring semester 2017," said Ron Cushing, UC International Services director.  "We will be meeting with student leaders this semester to clarify and quantify the unmet need for ongoing support of international students in order to develop possible options of how fees may be re-calibrated."

Scaled-back version coming? 

That leaves at least two initiatives in limbo: UC providing transportation to and from the airport and the creation of a dedicated center for international students.

"For now, the dedicated space and additional airport transportation will be put on hold and discussed with the students," Cushing said.

He said the university plans to resume collecting a fee in fall 2017, but the size of the fee and what it will pay for are up for negotiation with student groups.

Ryan Makinson, a doctoral student studying neuroscience who is the graduate college representative on the UC board of trustees, hopes the fee is canceled permanently.

Ryan Makinson

"They already pay out-of-state tuition and this is an extra burden," he said. "We didn't want them to feel ostracized."

Competing priorities

Makinson said the fee runs contrary to UC's goal of increasing diversity.

"Graduate programs are heavily invested in this issue given how many international students are enrolled. Having a diverse university is a benefit to all of us," he said.

Makinson argued that whatever extra costs are associated with enrolling international students should be borne by all students.

"We have a women's center on campus, but no one expects women to pay extra fees," he said.

UC has about 3,400 international students enrolled, including more than 2,000 graduate students -- a 60 percent increase in eight years.

Cushing said UC has to pay for federally mandated tracking and monitoring as well as mandatory health screening and extra orientation fees.

A survey was distributed to all international students last February. More than 500 students responded, and majorities of 77 percent wanted UC to begin or expand services like legal advice, on-campus job placement, discounted driving classes and training for post-degree life life financial literacy.

About 92 percent of respondents wanted UC to start a fund for international students' emergency assistance when a natural disaster or civil unrest strike their country.

How fee stacks up

Cushing said the $150 semester fee is comparable to some large universities and far smaller than others, including:

• University of Iowa: $140

• University of Nevada-Las Vegas: $145

• Michigan State: $500

• Penn State: $500

• Ohio State University: $970

• Purdue University: $1,000

Cushing told WCPO in August that he expects other schools to introduce or increase international student fees because of additional reporting requirements that the federal government initiated this year.

The new paperwork surrounds a program that encourages international students who earned degrees in STEM disciplines -- science, technology, engineering and mathematics -- to work in the United States for three years.
Colleges are responsible for tracking those graduates and submitting annual progress reports.

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