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BOT approves international student fee

The Board of Trustees approved a $50 fee per semester on Monday for international students that will be used to administer provisions included in the USA Patriot Act.

The Board also voted to change the name of the fee from Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, or SEVIS fee, to the International Student Administrative Charge. The fee has been in place for two semesters, but BOT approval was not deemed necessary when former Provost S. David Stamps introduced the expense. The Board’s vote was necessary now, however, because the cost of implementing the fee has become clearer.

According to a report presented at the meeting, the charge has turned into an administrative cost, funding Internet and computer hardware resources needed for compliance with the SEVIS provisions of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigration Responsibility Act, passed in 1990, and a similar stipulation in the Patriot Act. Both of these conditions require universities to monitor international students. The report said the cost of administering these provisions is too great for USF not to implement the fee.

David Austell, director of international student and scholar services and author of the report, said in the report that he wishes “there was no necessity for us to charge the SEVIS fee. However, in order to ensure that USF is in full compliance with the law, and that (the interests of) international students and scholars at USF are protected, there has been no choice left to me but to assess this new fee.”

Also at the meeting, Vice Provost Ralph Wilcox told the Board that Florida’s Board of Governors has “backed off the notion of standardized testing and instead they seem to be turning to the universities’ provosts for accountability measures.”

Wilcox, providing the Board with the provost report in the absence of Provost Renu Khator, outlined USF’s process of measuring its own accountability. Wilcox showed the Board a chart detailing accountability measures the university is subject to at different levels. It displayed the local level, containing its own 92 accountability measures, the state and regional level, including earning accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and the national level, which counts factors such as meeting U.S. Department of Education standards.

Wilcox also addressed a report brought before the BOG at its Thursday meeting. The Florida Council of 100, a group of business leaders who serve as advisers to the BOG, recommended to the Board that raising the minimum SAT score of the Bright Futures Scholarship would help with funding. The funding created by the increased standards, the report said, could be used to offer more need-based financial aid to students as well as provide almost $4 million for other initiatives.

“About 53 percent of Florida high school graduates qualify for the Bright Futures awards, and that is definitely not a bad thing,” Wilcox said. “But by raising the Bright Futures SAT standards, decreasing the number of students who qualify for the award, funding can be created for need-based financial aid. The money will still be going towards help to students looking to further their education.”

According to Wilcox, the alterations in state funding, along with the tuition increases that will come as the changes are made, would allow the state to provide more financial aid for students in private universities. Such innovations could also raise faculty salaries, among other things included in what the council’s report calls “academic excellence initiatives.”

Wilcox said Florida universities could see tuition increase at a rate of 14 percent over the next five years, at which point the state’s costs would be at the national median, and tuition would raise at the average national rate, or about 6 percent.

Harold Nixon, vice president of student affairs, updated the Board on the progress of several construction sites around campus. He told the Board construction of new residence halls at Maple and Beta projects as well as renovations on other residence halls were all on schedule and within their established budgets. He explained his department’s activities during the spring semester, which include processing “thousands of admission applications,” and told the Board that minority enrollment at USF continues to rise.

Nixon also told trustees a plan was being created to put security cameras in parking lots, starting with the lot outside the Magnolia apartments, to cut down on vandalism and other problems in the parking lots.

Other votes at the meeting approved the creation of a doctorate in physical therapy and permitted the construction of a pedestrian bridge going across Magnolia Drive from the H. Lee Moffitt Research Institute to facilities across the street.