International Students and their Financial Challenges in the US

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According to the Institute of International Education, over one million international students enrolled in American institutions in the year 2015-2016 (International Students). International students face acculturation issues such as culture shock, social challenges, and competitive academics when getting accustomed to a new country and a new academic environment. International students in American institutions bring financial benefits such as high revenue and cultural benefits such as involvement in STEM fields in classroom discussions. Despite the contributions of these students, American institutions do not offer enough financial support to international students, in comparison to students. The lack of financial support includes inadequate job opportunities, high costs of health insurance, and high costs of textbooks. The high differences in the currency exchange rates between the United States and other countries fuel the problem of finances for international students. The most visible international student population comprises more than 30% students from China, 16% from India, and 10% from South Korea and Saudi Arabia in American institutions, points out Chhavi, a student in Seattle, in her in-depth findings, in the new weekly column, Searching an Identity, beginning this Monday, exclusively in Different Truths.

Studying in America can bring all sorts of excitement, yet many challenges. Most international students who come to the United States arrive from China, India, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia (“New Data”). According to the Institute of International Education, over one million international students enrolled in American institutions in the year 2015-2016 (International Students). International students face acculturation issues such as culture shock, social challenges, and competitive academics when getting accustomed to a new country and a new academic environment. However, one of the major challenges they face is financial hindrances, given the high currency exchange rates between the United States and other countries. International students in American institutions bring financial benefits such as high revenue and cultural benefits such as increased involvement in STEM fields (Neuhauser) in classroom discussions. Yet, they are deprived of financial resources. Despite the contributions of these students, American institutions do not offer enough financial support to international students, in comparison to domestic students. The lack of financial support includes inadequate job opportunities, high costs of health insurance, and high costs of textbooks.

The high cost of tuition is an issue for international students in American institutions. Although some domestic students choose community colleges because the tuition is more affordable than a university, however, tuition is still expensive for international students, in both community colleges and . The financial resources for international students to fund their education are very limited because most of their funding comes from their families (Hsiao-ping et al.). Such limited options can lead to some very serious implications. These implications include working illegally (Yeung) and inability to finish their education because of failure to pay for college tuition (Sherry et al.).

The high differences in the currency exchange rates between the United States and other countries fuel the problem of finances for international students. The most visible international student population comprises more than 30% students from China, 16% from India, and 10% from South Korea and Saudi Arabia in American institutions (“New Data”). Even though international students might come from affluent backgrounds to study overseas, they too face financial hindrances. For example, the average monthly salary of an Indian household is nearly 280 American dollars (Average Salary). This means a family will have to dedicate thirteen months for generating 3,100 American dollars, which is the full-time international quarterly tuition at a community college. On the other hand, the average monthly salary of an American household is over $3,200 (Average Salary) and can cover the domestic tuition that is $1,300 (“Tuition and Fees”). This implies that American households can dedicate just a month for generating the tuition for about one academic year of community college. This scenario is very similar in countries such as China and Saudi Arabia (Average Salary).

International students are not valued, despite their huge contributions in American institutions. These contributions include academic and financial benefits. International students bring a source of cultural diversity to college campuses. They enrich the classroom discussions through their cultural and ethnic experiences. International students enhance the cultural understandings of the faculty and American students and contribute to creating a more diverse worldview. At the same time, international students constitute a large international relations investment in American institutions and generate significantly higher revenue in the form of tuition and other fees from an economic standpoint (Hsiao-ping et al.).

The lack of employment opportunities for international students is becoming a big problem, especially, because international students are only allowed on-campus work as regulated by their student visa, officially recognised as the F-1 visa. Despite their valuable contributions, American institutions do not provide enough on-campus job opportunities to international students to support themselves or their basic needs. In 2015’s Journal of International Students, Pamela Leong briefly talks about the experience of an international student studying at Oklahoma’s Rogers State University. In her piece, she states that international students do not have adequate on-campus job opportunities. She exemplifies her statement as she cites how a student felt disappointed with the repeatedly made empty promises of the University to offer him an on-campus job and upset with his failed attempts to secure an on-campus job (459-474). This example reflects how scarce on-campus jobs are for most international students.

While some might think job markets are more competitive for international students, others believe they are equally competitive for American citizens and legal residents. Rebecca Yeung, a journalist, and advocate for international students states that there is tremendous competition for jobs that aim at hiring young and that all American college students are facing extreme financial hardships in securing a job (Yeung). This shows why international students have limited on-campus job opportunities. In addition to this, some employers believe they do not want to hire and train international students because of their short period of stay. Because these trainings are time-consuming, employers favor American citizens over international students as they will likely serve on a long-term basis and possess a pre-established local knowledge and connections (Yeung). However, employers can consider another option for hiring international students. This option is called Optional Practical Training (O.P.T). This opportunity allows all qualified international students to temporarily work off-campus according to the United States Department of Homeland Security. These students can work up to a year in their field of major. As a result, employers can effectively train international students and if satisfied with their skills, can further continue the process of sponsoring them or extending their O.P.T. (13039-13122).

The majority domestic students either turn to the financial help offered by their families or towards grants and loans when faced with economic hardships. However, these hardships are even more extreme for international students as most of them do not have these financing options. As a result, many international students are more likely to turn to illegal work than domestic students. The reason why these students work illegally also includes balancing the financial burdens on the families who are responsible for paying the education bills of these international students. Rebecca Yeung illustrates how some international students at the University of Washington hid their identities, fearing deportation and worked illegally to pay for college. She explains that some students were only able to work for an average of fifteen hours a week, barely enough to cover their personal needs (Yeung).

Yet, another burden that international students face is the high cost of health insurance. The American dollar is considered as one of the most expensive currencies in the world. Given the high currency exchange rates between the United States and countries such as India and China, international students feel financially burdened to pay for the high costs of health insurance. For this reason, some students their health and instead, choose to save money. In a survey designed by the University of Toledo for international students, a student reported that he had not been to a medical center for three years because of the high price of health insurance he pays each semester. He blames the University community for his financial vulnerabilities and highlights their inability to serve his needs (Sherry et al.). Even though the high cost of health insurance is an issue of finances for international students, there are some possible solutions. In his article “Challenges for International Students in the United States,” Eric Rosenberg acknowledges the high cost of health insurance is a financial barrier for international students and offers solutions by introducing a Medical Insurance Service Group called Tokio Marine HCC that recognises the financial difficulties of international students studying in American institutions and provides them with extensive medical coverages (Rosenberg).

In addition to the high cost of health insurance, the high cost of textbooks burdens international students. Purchasing a textbook for its use in a single quarter or semester can be a waste of money, especially for classes that are not related to a student’s major. A Swedish male student at Oklahoma’s Rogers State University shows agreement on this issue and talks about how institutions in his home country provided the students with the necessary textbooks and did not require them to purchase it (Leong 459-474). Therefore, unexpected expenses such as the high cost of textbooks add to the financial burden of international students. All these reasons show that American institutions offer inadequate financial support to international students.

There is an immediate need to offer more financial assistance to international students with respect to the cultural and financial benefits they bring in the American institutions. The financial support can include increased on-campus job opportunities and provision of alternative financial resources such as scholarships that can cover the high costs of textbooks and health insurance. Providing better funding for the education of international students is extremely important because failure to include international students and inability to understand international relations at this level can contradict institutions’ objectives of shaping all students as global citizens for a better world.

Works Cited

Average Salary around the World, Adjusted by Purchasing Power 2012 (in U.S. Dollars). Statista, 2016. The Statistics Portal, Statista. Web. 8 Nov. 2016. Chart.

Hsiao-ping, Wu, et al. “International Student’s Challenge and Adjustment to College.”Education Research International, 15 Jan. 2015. ProQuest Research Library. Web. 7 Nov. 2016.

International Students. Institute of International Education, 2016. Open Doors Data. Web. 8 Nov. 2016.

Leong, Pamela. “Coming to America: Assessing the Patterns of Acculturation, Friendship Formation, and the Academic Experiences of International Students at a U.S. College.”Journal of International Students, vol. 5, no. 4, Sept.-Oct. 2015, pp. 459-74. ProQuest Research Library. Web. 5 Nov. 2016.

 Neuhauser, Alan. “Foreign Students Outpacing Americans for STEM Graduate Degrees.” U.S. News & World Report, 17 May 2016. Access U.S. Newswires. Web. 7 Nov. 2016.

“New Data Show Gains in Both International Students Coming to the United States and U.S. Students Heading Overseas to Study.” International Educator, vol. 17.1, no. 1, 29 Mar. 2014, pp. 10-11. ProQuest Research Library. Web. 6 Nov. 2016. Abstract.

Rosenberg, Eric. “Challenges for International Students in the United States.” Tokio Marine HCC, 24 Mar. 2016. Web. 28 Oct. 2016.

Sherry, Mark, et al. “International Students: A Student Population.” Academic Search Premier, 3 Nov. 2009. Web. 30 Oct. 2016.

“Tuition and Fees.” South Seattle College, South Seattle College – SSC, 2016. Table.

The United States, Department of Homeland Security. Students and Employment. Federal Register, 3 Nov. 2016, pp. 13039-122. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Web. 8 Nov. 2016.

Yeung, Rebecca. “Frustrated with Regulations, UW International Students Turn to Illegal Work.” The Seattle Globalist, 18 Mar. 2014. Web. 10 Nov. 2016. 

“Tips for International Students Hoping to Stay after Studying.” The Seattle Globalist, 9 Apr. 2015. Web. 8 Nov. 2016.

©Chhavi Mehra

Photos from the internet.

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Chhavi Mehra

Chhavi Mehra

Chhavi Mehra is an international student from India completing her Associate's of Arts degree in Communications and Media at South Seattle College. She will be transferring to a university in California for her Bachelor's degree in Journalism. Chhavi hopes to write quality pieces reflecting the integrity of publications like The New York Times.
Chhavi Mehra
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