International students receive less aid than domestic students

Sophomore Shuai Li, an international student from China, works 22 hours a week — the maximum a student employee can work at Miami University. Li does this, and said she would do more if she could, because she has to help her parents pay for her education.

Her college expenses total more than $45,000 each year — and her parents aren’t willing to pay that by themselves. The deal is they’ll pay for tuition if she covers the room and board, books and any additional fees.

Li is like many other international students at Miami in that she receives no scholarship compensation from the university. In fact, only 34 percent of last year’s accepted international students received a scholarship offer, while 70 percent — more than double — of accepted American students were offered a scholarship.

This discrepancy is the result of a combination of factors working against the international community, Associate Director of International Admissions Aaron
Bixler said.

“They just don’t have the same opportunities,” he said.

For instance, international students are not eligible for university merit scholarships unless they have taken the ACT or SAT, which few have access to in their
home countries.

Li said she took the SAT, but had to travel to another location to take it.

“I went to Hong Kong to take the test,” she said. “It was a two-and-a-half hour flight, but Hong Kong is the only place to take the SAT in China.”

Perhaps more problematic is that international students are not eligible for government aid, such as student loans or Pell grants. Bixler said some students’ home countries, like India, offer student loans, but it’s rare.

Though international students are not considered for university merit scholarships without these standardized tests, Miami offers the International Education Scholarship to alleviate some of the expenses. Of course, it’s highly competitive, according to the MU International Admission Fact Sheet.

It is the source of most international students’ scholarships, ranging from $2,000 to $16,000 per year. Bixler said there are no specific requirements for this award, but the admissions office considers diversity when selecting recipients.

“We are trying to recruit in places we don’t have a lot of students,” Bixler said. “We’d choose a Brazilian who wants to be an architect over a Chinese student
studying finance.”

This, he said, is because the university focuses on diversifying not only its total student body, but also the countries represented within the international student body and the areas of study those students pursue.

And even with the International Education Scholarship, Bixler said the average international student receives just $3,000 in scholarship offers.

He also said it is nearly impossible for an international student to attend Miami on full scholarship, with the exception of international athletes.

“We are very upfront in saying, ‘If you need a full, 100 percent scholarship, then you shouldn’t apply,’” Bixler said.

But according to the National Association of Foreign Student Advisers (NAFSA), 80.9 percent of international undergraduates studying in the U.S. pay for their educations with personal and family funds — meaning Miami students are far better off than the national average (66 percent). Miami’s international students benefit in other ways, too. For now, they pay the equivalent of out-of-state tuition, but at other schools, that’s not the case.

“There are some schools that have added an international student surcharge, like Ohio State and Purdue,” Bixler said, “but we haven’t done that yet.”

Despite its supplemental fee, Purdue University has the 11th largest international student body in the country, according to U.S. News and World Report.

And, more than a financial burden, the lack of scholarships available to international students at Miami may be fueling a negative stereotype.

Director of International Students and Scholar Services (ISSS) David Keitges said many stereotypes circulate about international students, including that they are all wealthy.

Keitges said the unavailability of scholarships for international students feeds this stereotype.

“If the university cannot provide need-based scholarships,” Keitges said, “then the students who do come — without scholarships — are going to be wealthier than those who could come with need-based scholarships. You’d just expect that.”

Bixler agreed. He said, unfortunately, this is an inevitable cause and effect scenario.

“There are so many international students who come from diverse places that apply,” he said. “They just can’t afford to come here because we don’t have the resources. That hurts us, but it’s just kind of the reality of it.”