International Student Concerns at UF
David R. Colburn, Provost
At the last meeting of the Board of Trustees, a UF international student asserted that the University of Florida had recently established three policies that have had a profoundly negative impact on international students. At the same time, it was claimed that the University has offered $3,000 to any faculty member who developed a new international course or added an international component to a course. The student asked rhetorically why the University would support faculty in this manner but ignore the needs of the international students?
The three specific policies of concern to international students are: a requirement that graduate students take 12 credits in order to be in full-time status and the contention that this is a new policy which poses a special burden on international students; an increase in the cost of health insurance this year; and the implementation of a $100 fee for all international students this fall (that helps underwrite the work of the International Center).
First, the offer to faculty to develop new international courses is being jointly sponsored by the International Office and the Partnership in Global Learning and is funded by a grant to the Partnership in Global Learning. Moreover, this program is only available to five faculty members, not to any UF faculty member, as was asserted.
Second, the University’s academic policy, which requires full-time graduate students to take 12 credits per semester, has been in place for twenty years. There is nothing new about this policy. What has changed is the monitoring of international students and their academic status by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). UF is required to report to INS those international graduate students who are not meeting the University’s definition of full-time status. Understandably, this has become a significant area of concern to international students. Because the curriculum in some colleges makes it difficult for international students to take more than 9 credits in certain semesters, the University has informed INS that for administrative purposes it considers an international student to be full time if he or she takes 9 credits in a semester. We believe this will ease the potential burden on international students and also satisfy INS.
Third, regarding health insurance purchased by students through Scarborough Insurance Company, there was a change in the required payment by international students for visits to the Student Health Center. Previously international students were fully covered by this policy when they went to the Health Center. This year, their health insurance policy requires that they pay 20% of the costs. Our international students are allowed to piggy-back onto the insurance policy available to our other students through the Scarborough Insurance Company. Historically, the international students have paid less for this policy than our other students. But international students have begun to use health services at rates similar to our other students, and consequently, the policy has been adjusted to reflect this reality. With rising insurance rates, the international students found themselves faced this year with only 80% coverage, the same as our other students. But their rate for this insurance policy is still lower than the rate paid by the other students. With insurance rates forecast to go much higher in the next few years, I think we can fully expect the rates for international and all other students to increase and the co-pay to increase as well. We are working with Scarborough Insurance to control costs as much as possible.
Fourth, regarding the $100 fee for international students, the University has studied this matter for some period of time, because the International Office was being asked to handle much more paperwork for our international students than was covered by our student fee. In reviewing this matter, we also examined what other AAU schools are doing. We found that most universities charge a fee to international students to cover the costs of processing visas and other paperwork for the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the Department of State. Following 9/11, this paperwork at UF and other universities increased significantly when INS and the State Department established more stringent regulations for student visas and more elaborate reporting mechanisms for international students. Please note that the University is using all the revenue generated by this fee to provide better support for our international students by increasing the number of staff and support services in the International Office.
I hope this memorandum clarifies these issues for you.