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Bills could divert financial aid for international students

International students may soon find themselves asking for more money from home – much more.

The Florida House of Representatives passed a bill on Wednesday, March 29, that could provide more financial assistance to resident students of public universities and community colleges at the cost of providing far less to international students. House Bill 205 aims to prohibit state funding on financial aid for foreign students. Per the text of the bill, “A state university or community college shall not use state funds … tuition or fee revenues generated by Florida residents to provide financial assistance to any student holding an F-1 or M-1 visa.”

If a similar Senate bill is passed along side HB205, the new criterion for just who can receive financial aid will become effective July 1, 2006. According to the stipulations of Senate Bill 458, schools should encourage more private donations, corporate grants and federal funds to recruit students from overseas instead of allowing the state to finance their education.

According to the Association of International Educators, from 2004 to 2005 the 26,264 international students in Florida cost more than $219.2 million in state funds; however, those same students contributed more than $625.9 million to Florida’s economy.

“I think the bill is very anti-immigration in nature, which seems to be the trend of late in the United States,” student Jonathan Tyler said.

Tyler said he finds the bill disturbing because it will prohibit the use of such funds to provide financial assistance to specified foreign students.

“The term ‘specified’ is what stands out to me,” he said. “Unfortunately, these students will have no protection under the 14th Amendment,” he said.

According to Interim Director for the International Student and Scholar Services Marcia Taylor, last semester the 1455 international students at USF received more than half of their funding from family or friends. The remaining percentage came from USF scholarships or grants and the students’ home government or university.

Prior to enrollment, international student applicants must also submit a separate financial statement called a “Statement of Financial Responsibility,” which shows the student can cover all educational, maintenance and personal expenses without school assistance.

“The majority are self supported,” Associate Director of International Admissions Evelyn Levinson said. “USF is one of the 10 percent of schools (in the United States) that offers financial assistance based on merit factors.”

According to Levinson, if Florida’s International Linkage Institute Programs, which allow internationals to pay in-state tuition, are eliminated, it will be detrimental to recruitment and Florida’s economy.