Hold the University of Michigan Accountable for new international student fee
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On June 20, 2019, the University of Michigan’s Board of Regents approved a new fee of $500 per term for international students on F or J visas. However, the University administration has yet to provide a coherent explanation as to why this fee is necessary and where the money will go.
This fee is the first of its kind at the University of Michigan, and represents a stark departure from its commitment to Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI). The fee, of $1000-$1500 per student per year, will exacerbate the already substantial financial burden placed on international students, who represent 14.9% of the total student body at U of M.
The University administration has argued that the fee is necessary to "cover the cost of sustaining and enhancing services to support the success of international students and compliance and reporting requirements." However, the University’s own FAQ, states that the University has not yet decided how the money will be used. The University administration has provided no evidence that the operational costs of the International Center — the main regulatory interface between students and the university — have increased and has stated that the fee will not be used to fund the International Center. No information has been provided about how the University plans to use the $3-5 million that this fee will raise per year. How these raised funds will indeed go towards supporting international student services remains unclear.
Far from representing an opportunity for improvement of services to international students, this new fee increases a financial burden without a payoff. International students are already vulnerable given their immigration status, especially at a time when immigration policies and the political discourse have put them on the spotlight. If the university wants to act on their stated commitment to international students, adding a financial burden and singling them out from the larger student body is not the way to do so.
In the absence of a budgetary problem to solve and the lack of consultation to international students’ in the decision process, the new fee is unjustified. It also sets a dangerous precedent. There is a real possibility that, in the future, the University administration will raise the amount without justification or demonstrated need, or that the university will impose new fees targeting other demographics on campus. Furthermore, there is also no guarantee that the provost’s office will continue to pay or waive the fee for PhD students, putting this new financial burden on departments, or on the students themselves, in the future.
Because of the high stakes involved in the imposition of this unjustified fee, we ask provost Martin A. Philbert to hold a town hall as soon as possible to inform students which problems will the fee solve and how the university will use the money.
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