When international students paid their bursar bill last fall, they owed an extra $100 they were not expecting.
The international services fee, which supports advising and technical services for international students, according to the Office of International Services website, increased from $91.80 to $200. The change was made to bring IU’s fee closer in line with what other Big Ten Conference schools charge, said David Zaret, vice president for international affairs.
The change showed up on students' bursar bills without prior notice of the fee increase, said Adam Reneker, the president of IU Graduate and Professional Student Government.
Zaret said IU does not notify students of an increase in prices for fees such as the infrastructure or technology fee.
“A lot of people have these stereotypes of international students being people with fairly large amounts of money, and their family pays for everything,” Reneker said. “That's not necessarily the case, especially when you're dealing with graduate students.”
Reneker said most international graduate students live paycheck-to-paycheck based off a fixed income from their stipend from the University.
Prior to this change, the fee was increased by 2 percent every year, Zaret said. He said the fee was raised because it is in good practice in terms of revenue sources to look at other institutions and see if your institution is out of line.
It has not been determined if the fee will continue to increase by 2 percent every year, Zaret said.
Other schools in the Big Ten have special international fees that range from $400 to $1,500 per semester, Zaret said. Other schools also charge more tuition for international students than they do for out-of-state domestic or in-state students. IU, however, charges out-of-state domestic and international students the same for tuition, at $34,846.
Zaret said IU’s international student fee is still toward the bottom of those in the Big Ten. Of the universities that list an international student fee on their website, IU has the fourth lowest cost behind the University of Iowa, University of Maryland and University of Wisconsin.
The University of Wisconsin has the cheapest fee at $100 but charges more tuition for international students than they do for out-of-state or in-state students.
Because the fee is aimed at a demographic of students, unlike other fees, international students feel they can more easily be taken advantage of, Reneker said. He said he got the impression the money has not gone toward any increase in services for international students.
“It has made a lot of international students uncomfortable, because if that is the case, then they kind of are being treated as cash cows,” Reneker said.
Zaret said it has not yet been determined how the money will be used. He said the Office of International Services has unmet needs, including the high ratio of international students to advisers and lack of space designated for international student organizations.
Reneker presented his concerns to the IU Board of Trustees at the April 5 meeting. Reneker said the trustees seemed concerned about the issue, but there was no direct response.
At the same meeting, Provost Lauren Robel reported that international student applications are 16 percent lower than usual. However, Robel said the lower numbers were due in part to the uncertainty of the ability to stay in the United States due to visa issues and national gun violence broadly covered by newspapers around the world.