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Fee could affect international students at U.S. universities

From U-Wire
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
January 31, 2000
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AUSTIN, Texas-New international students could soon have to pay a $95 entrance fee to attend universities nationwide, if a regulation introduced by the Immigration and Naturalization Service is approved in May.

The fee would be used to create a computer database of information, making it easier to ensure that international students are complying with the conditions of their student visas, such as taking the required amount of classes and not working more hours than permitted, said Eyleen Schmidt, an INS spokeswoman.

"For the most part, it is turning information we already have in a paper file into an electronic file which would be easier to track," Schmidt said, adding that the U.S. Congress requires the program be self-financed, making it necessary to pass the cost onto students.

The proposed regulation would mean additional costs and effort for the University of Texas, since institutions would be required to assume administrative responsibilities for the new fee, including informing students, collecting money and remitting it to the INS.

Schmidt said the proposal, if it passes, would be in place for two years, at which time the federal government would evaluate the need for any changes in the fee amount. Deane Willis, assistant director of the UT International Office, said the new fee would create "a tremendous amount of extra work" for the university, in addition to an estimated extra $10,000 for staff time.

"It requires a program to collect the fee, deposit it and figure out how to get it to INS," Willis said. "It involves the overall system - not just our office, but the accounting system too."

There are 3,984 international students currently at the university, with about 900 new international students enrolling each fall, Willis said.

She added that having to collect fees makes the university appear as if it is acting on behalf of the INS, which may bias international students' views.

"We're not a part of the INS, we're very much a part of the university and providing a service to the students," Willis said. "A lot of schools oppose this, particularly for this reason."

Jim Vick, vice president for student affairs, said he's concerned that some students may not be able to afford the fee, adding that international students already pay out-of-state tuition.

"Supporting the international student population is a high priority," Vick said. "I really feel that the international students on our campus are a major asset to the university - they are a very important part of the educational experience here for our students, wherever they come from."

The fee would also be required each time an international student transfers to a new university.

Some foreign students, such as those attending high schools or elementary schools, would be exempt from the fee.

The INS will accept public comments on the proposed fee until Feb. 22.

The university will respond against it in some way, Vick said.

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