After international students expressed they felt alienated by KU for proposing a nearly 94% increase of the international student fee for the 2020-2021 school year, University of Kansas administrators rescinded the increase Friday.
Provost Barbara Bichelmeyer announced in an email Friday the international student fee would be reduced back to $160 per semester after speaking with international students. The proposed fee, which was included in KU’s tuition proposal to the Kansas Board of Regents, was $310 per semester.
“We realize the significant impact such an increase would have on our international students, and we recognize the lack of alignment of this action with our previous messaging about our intentions to keep any tuition and fee increase as low as possible for the coming year,” Bichelmeyer said.
International students sent a letter Monday listing four demands to KU administration asking for the fee to be held flat after the Kansan previously reported the increase. It included a demand to flatten the fee, and to diversify the funding sources for the International Student Services Office.
The fee was initially increased to fund the International Student Services Office, which saw significant cuts in the past fiscal year, Associate Vice Provost for International Affairs Charlie Bankart previously told the Kansan.
“I’m glad that the fee is being rescinded but I think this is demonstrative of KU as an institution, in that it has and continues to use international students as a cash cow,” said Hollie Hall, a KU graduate student from London who co-authored the letter.
The Office of International Affairs will be a part of the American Council on Education’s Internationalization and Globalization Laboratory to ensure the best in class services and programs for students, according to Bichelmeyer’s email. The Lab provides customized guidance and insight to help colleges and universities with their internationalization goals.
Further, a review of fee structure and the office’s financial model will be under review along with participation in the ACE Internationalization Lab.
“I am appreciative of the students who reminded us of our guiding principles during the COVID-19 pandemic, and our aspiration to protect equity for members of our community as much as possible during this highly challenging time,” Bichelmeyer said.
Multiple campus organizations signed the letter that was submitted to the chancellor and provost Monday, including Student Senate.
“It shows good leadership on the provost’s part,” said Student Body President Apramay Mishra, who co-signed the letter. “I’m glad that she recognized it was really unfair to international students and worked quickly to resolve the issue as soon as possible.”
Mishra added, “It brings up the larger question of, why are there no international students overseeing that international student fee?”
Hall, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, said she would like in the future for more student input on how international student money is spent on the campus, especially regarding the International Student Services Office. She believes there should be a student advisory board that oversees how the money is spent.
“I’ve been at KU since 2012 as an international student, and I was never really aware of how my money was being spent,” Hall said. “Students should be involved in how the money is spent.”
In April, Chancellor Douglas Girod asked Student Senate to re-evaluate the student fee package, which each student pays in tuition. He asked student leaders to keep the fee flat at $491.95 — the 2019-2020 cost — in order to ease the financial burden on students due to the new coronavirus outbreak.
Girod’s tuition proposal, which he presented to KBOR last week, proposed to keep tuition flat for students in the coming year. However, among the proposal was the increase of nearly 94% in the international student fee.