For overseas students: Where is the money for school?

By Keishi Matsuda
Northwest Asian Weekly

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It is becoming more common for international students from Asian countries to further their education in Washington state colleges. Some students flourish and have relatively little trouble studying in the United States, but others struggle.

Now that English has become a common language worldwide, international business, academic papers, and a world-scale conference all require people to employ English, more and more students from Asian countries are coming to America.

Though these students generally keep their difficulties inside, when pressed, they admit that money is the main thing that gives them headaches. While they are in college, it can be impossible to find a job to earn money because they lack a work visa.

Students from Asia

According to statistics from the Institute of International Education, 62 percent of international students in the United States in 2008-2009 were from Asian countries, 12 percent from Europe, and 10 percent from Latin America. Moreover, in 2007–2008, there was an 8 percent increase in the number of international students in the United States.

According to the recent U.S. Census, the Asian and Asian American population in Washington state is seventh in the nation, at about 485,000 persons. The overall percentage of Asian and Asian Americans comprises the fifth largest population group in the nation, at 7.2 percent.

Since many Asians live in Washington state, their young relatives and family members often come here to study. These relatives depend on the kindness of their family members here to provide a place to live and daily meals.

In addition, large numbers of students in Washington state have come here from Asian countries just because they see the United States as the best country to further their education.

The cost of education for the Asian students

“I have come to America for further study, the most advanced education,” said Weiwei Che, from China, who is a student at Bellevue College. She has already graduated from a university in China with a bachelor’s degree in English and is now planning on studying business.

From her perspective, the college education system in China emphasizes academic knowledge rather than practical skill, which is very important in conducting business. She expects that education in the United States will offer her “a way to apply” the knowledge she has gained in both China and the United States to the business field.

For the international students, tuition can be quite a bit more than it is for American citizens. Bellevue College requires non-resident students to pay about $1,340 for five credits, while residents pay about $480.

Weiwei has prepared well for the expensive tuition. “I know many students from China, including me, who got good scholarships from their employer or whatever foundations. Otherwise, we could not afford college education in America,” said Weiwei.

The situation for these international students is becoming an unfavorable one. The University of Washington (UW) has approved a 20 percent tuition hike for residents and a 10 percent hike for non-residents. This requires residents to pay $10,346 and non-residents to pay $27,830 for a year’s worth of education at the UW. This is the cost of tuition only and excludes other necessary expenses, such as the cost of books, technology fees, and housing.

“I think there are a number of students in Japan who are willing to study abroad. But, when they think about how much it would cost, it comes in their way,” said Kenta Yamamoto, from Japan. “Students who want to study in the U.S. often apply for an exchange system in their universities to attend a university in the U.S, but it is just for nine months. I do not think they can learn anything good in that short term.”

Asian international students have limited access to education in the United States because they do not have enough money to attend college here.

In Japan, a public university costs students about $5,000 a year. It costs non-resident students $30,000 or 40,000 in the United States. Japanese students can get doctorates in Japan with the money they use to pay for a year’s worth of education in the United States.

The situation is not getting better for Asian international students

Since the Washington state legislature passed a bill that will allow colleges and universities to determine their own tuition rates, some colleges have been increasing tuition. The UW attempted to overcome some of its financial difficulties by raising tuition under the idea that students should be provided with the same quality instruction that they were provided previously.

Despite the unpredictable increase in tuition for the Washington state colleges in the past few years, the number of Asian international students in the United States has been increasing, even though some students are in unfavorable situations.

“I had no choice but to come to America in order to not ruin my future career. I failed to enter a university in Hong Kong, which means my future would be shut down if I didn’t come here to attend a college,” said Yik Lun Chan from Honk Kong, now a student at Bellevue College. “My parents now pay the tuition for me, but I definitely have to pay the money back to them.”

Chan has dreamt of becoming a professional in the computer science field. Behind the pursuit of his dream, there is the fact that his parents have mortgaged their house and most of their properties to loan enough money to send him to America. Not every student is from a wealthy family or gets financial aid to attend such an expensive tuition-based college. He has a younger brother who will be graduating from high school in four years. “After I graduate from the university and get a job, I have to support my family and brother,” said Yik Lun Chan.

For international students, compared with American students, it is not easy to apply for financial aid.

Because international students have no background and achievements in the United States, they can barely find anything extraordinary but a high GPA for immediate application for financial aid. They have to be smarter and more diligent than American students to be candidates for such aid.

“I came to Seattle right after I graduated high school in Japan. I have an uncle who lives here, and I went to an international school in Japan, so there was no problem to come here in any way, except the money thing,” said George Lauer, a student at Seattle University. “I know a few students from other states who are taking advantage of good offers at Seattle University.” Lauer, on the other hand, is paying much higher tuition than many of his peers.

Those students would usually pay non-resident tuition in Washington state, but they have received good financial aid, which makes their tuition less than what they would pay in their own states.

Lauer pays about $1,500 a month for tuition. Some out-of-state students pay about $400 a month after receiving tuition breaks. ♦

Keishi Matsuda can be reached at info@nwasianweekly.com.

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