International students navigate financial challenges to pay US tuition

by Admin
International students navigate financial challenges to pay US tuition

Navigating the complexities of higher education is challenging for many, but for international students, the financial hurdles can be particularly daunting.

Faced with skyrocketing tuition and fees, limited access to financial aid, and the instability of scholarships, many international students struggle to sustain their academic dreams.

Funding problems can lead some students to withdraw their college applications, as Alpha Daramy Sesay of Sierra Leone did. He abandoned his dream of studying journalism at the University of Maryland.

“I’ve applied to almost three universities in the past two years, and the board members were thrilled with my purpose statement and approved my application unambiguously,” Sesay told VOA News. “However, I was unable to register due to the funding bottleneck, and the deadline for these offers has just lapsed.”

Sesay had meticulously planned his move to the U.S., even stopping his scholarship search when a family member promised financial support. When Sesay was admitted to his dream school, however, the family support fell through, leaving him scrambling for scholarships that didn’t cover all expenses.

Reflecting on his ordeal, Sesay advises future international students to seek scholarships and consult with school advisers early to avoid similar setbacks.

Talia Popovski, senior director of International Student Services at Valencia College in Orlando, Florida, suggests starting at a community college to save on tuition costs.

“Primarily, we have international students pursuing associate degrees,” she said. “This is a major way for them to save money compared to going directly to a university.”

Popovski emphasized the benefits of community colleges as pathways to universities, with many international students pursuing associate degrees before transferring to earn their bachelor’s degrees. She also highlighted the role of on-campus work in alleviating financial burdens, suggesting institutional work-study programs as options.

According to NAFSA: Association of International Educators, a nonprofit dedicated to international education and exchange, international students are ineligible for federal work-study positions, necessitating discussions with advisers about employment eligibility. Popovski also mentioned that universities offer part-time jobs through their human resources departments, including paid internships, which provide additional financial support for education.

Student secures honor scholarship

Guilherme Lucas Mannarino, who received his associate degree from Valencia College, turned down 32 esports scholarships to study in Florida.

“I came to the United States [from Brazil] when I was 18 years old,” Mannarino recalled. “I rejected all the scholarships that I acquired through esports, playing Fortnite.”

Mannarino, who majored in finance at Valencia College, exemplified proactive planning in overcoming financial challenges.

Despite declining the esports scholarships, Mannarino secured an honor scholarship at Valencia College covering 50% of his tuition. He attributed his financial stability to planning ahead, staying on top of his academics, and acquiring an on-campus job.

To supplement his income, he conducted workshops advising Brazilian students on esports scholarships, allowing him to cover living expenses by finding roommates through social media.

“I was able to find a roommate on social media before coming to the U.S., which is a great way to save money,” he said. “A year later, we had another roommate, which made my living costs cheaper, which is honestly the best way to save money in the U.S.”

Tips for overcoming financial hurdles

Kadiatou Sow, from Conakry, Guinea, is studying at Saginaw Valley State University in University Center, Michigan.

“Managing the high cost of tuition and living expenses while studying abroad involves a strategic approach,” Sow said. “I prioritize securing scholarships and grants tailored for international students to alleviate tuition expenses and sometimes cover living costs. Supplementing this with part-time work both on campus and in the local community provides a steady income for daily necessities.”

She encourages fellow international students to balance work and studies effectively, understand visa work-hour regulations, and seek university support for financial aid options.

“Seeking guidance from university support services and staying informed about financial aid options are essential strategies for navigating these challenges successfully,” Sow said.

Three ways international students can overcome financial hurdles:

1. Community college enrollment: Begin with an associate degree at a community college to save significantly on tuition costs before transferring to a university for a bachelor’s degree.

2. On-campus employment: Explore institutional work-study programs and university job boards for part-time employment opportunities that complement studies and provide financial support.

3. Proactive financial planning: Save money before arriving in the U.S., seek scholarships tailored for international students, and explore paid internship opportunities to supplement income.

While financial obstacles are daunting, international students can achieve their academic aspirations through strategic planning, diligent scholarship pursuit and leveraging on-campus resources, advisers say.

By adopting proactive financial strategies and staying resilient, they can successfully navigate the challenges of financing their education abroad, ensuring a path to academic success and personal growth.

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