The Push for International Dollars; A Private Institution’s Philosophy

The Push for International Dollars; A Private Institution’s Philosophy

From left, UCO President Don Betz, Vice President for Student Affairs Myron Pope, and Executive Director of International Affairs Dennis Dunham. (Photos provided by Dan Smith, Photo Services.)

Reporter’s Note: This article is looking at how cuts to education are forcing universities like the University of Central Oklahoma to re-think the way it brings in revenue and how it is using practices from private institutions. 

International students have become a discussion in recent years as funding cutbacks to the University of Central Oklahoma have deepened and how creating new ways of funding has become an issue.

Paying $325.35 more per credit hour than their in-state counterparts, international students will end up paying almost three times as much when they take 15 credit hours, according to the university’s fee schedule.

“We are having to function more like a private institution in the form of recruitment,” said Myron Pope, vice president for Student Affairs at UCO.

The university spends over $9.2 million dollars in scholarships each year, with international students receiving more assistance per individual than any other demographic, on average. They also make up around 33 percent of tuition collection, according to Pope.

Out of the entire scholarship fund, international students received $1.09 million, second only to Caucasians who were awarded $3.45 million, the largest of any demographic, according university records.

“Since we are not receiving as much money from the state; what many institutions are doing is they are leveraging their scholarships … and basically what they are doing is going out and getting high-paying students to be able to cover the cost of the shortfall,” Pope said.

The 866 students who were awarded scholarships received an average of $1,437.49, which is higher than other demographics, but the reward comes with a cost.

“So yes we are giving more dollars to international students, but if you look at it, they are paying more per student,” Pope said.

Cost for international students comes in at three times as much as an in-state undergraduate student and are required to pay additional fees each semester, which most universities require.

“I know a lot of international students who can only stay for one semester, due to money,” said June Chong, president of the International Student Council at UCO. “I thank God that I am financially stable, though many people are not.”

Chong lost two years of college credit when she arrived at the university, forcing her to start out as a freshman, costing more money and time.

“Most of my friends back home are already graduated,” Chong said.

Paying $8,000 per semester, Chong is able to stay at the university due to financial assistance and help from her parents; she said studying abroad is expensive, but worth the investment.

“If you come to the U.S. to just sit in the classroom, you should just stay in your country, because you are wasting your money,” Chong said.

Out-of-state students are required to pay the higher tuition fees that international students do, but are spared from paying the international student maintenance fee, which costs $120 for each fall and spring semester.

“I would love to have more scholarships for international students. That would help them so much. Because as you know the universities across the state have had a tuition-hike,” said Dennis Dunham, executive director of International Affairs at UCO.

The university had to cut most areas of scholarships by 20 percent, besides athletics, miscellaneous waivers, and the Broncho Advantage Texas waiver. Pope said he is hoping that scholarships will soon return to their normal levels.

Paying those fees can be difficult for many families from foreign nations, where poverty continues and students must pay for their semester before the arrive in America, Dunham said.

“They need to show that they can pay $24,000 the first year, which is not all tuition, it includes housing and other things,” Dunham said. “They have to give us a bank statement stating that they have $24,000.”

To obtain a student visa, many international students are required to prove that they can pay for the upcoming year, Dunham said.

In the fall 2015 semester, 1,448 international students were enrolled on campus. Pope and others said they are wanting to see the number increase as the Oklahoma Legislature has cut funding over the past several years.

“Historically, this institution has had a high number of international students. When I started here in 2004, at that point 8 percent of our students were international,” Pope said.

Attracting international students from across the globe is not new to the university. In October 2015, UCO President Don Betz and Anne Holzberlein, executive director for the UCO Foundation, traveled to Asia to speak with other universities to attract new students through partnerships.

“Long term, our goal is developing a culture of philanthropy, giving back in different ways, not just financially to UCO, giving back time and commitment,” Holzberlein said after her trip in 2015 in an October 2015 the Vista article regarding the newfound connections.

Several new agreements were signed between the universities on the trip and UCO which allowed for cultural exchange programs.

“Several we had relationships with before, the universal theme received terrific reception … particularly the possibility of their institutions’ students receiving training or education here…” Betz said after the trip in an October 2015 the Vista article. 

Increasing diversity is also one of the factors that the university considers, making sure to have around 10 percent of the student body be international, Pope said. He said the same of other demographics.

In the fall of last year, international students made up around 11 percent of the total population at UCO, according to the campus Factbook.

“There is no other university that has our cost, that also has this size of campus,” Dunham said. “I would love to have more money to give to international students.”

The international student population at other universities across the state also averages around 10 percent, with the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University having almost 2,000 enrolled.

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