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Purdue proposes international student fee hikes

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A proposal to boost fees for Purdue University's large foreign student population is sparking concerns the added costs might hurt the campus' flourishing international studies program.

Hsing-Hui Weng, a graduate student in the school of pharmacy from Taiwan, said she's concerned about the proposal. She said financing is already a struggle for many international students on the West Lafayette campus.

"It's just tight," she told the Journal & Courier of Lafayette.

Under the proposed increases, foreign students enrolling this summer would pay an additional $1,000 on top of 3.8-percent tuition increases for all out-of-state students, bringing their tuition to $28,646 for the next school year. Purdue has also proposed a $2,000 fee for 2012-13 academic year, in addition to an overall hike that would boost tuition to $30,702 for foreign students starting in summer 2012.

Purdue's trustees will hold a May 27 public hearing on those and other proposed fee and tuition hikes before voting on those proposals.

But even before that vote is held, some on the West Lafayette campus worry the added cost will hurt Purdue's big and growing international studies program.

Purdue ranked fourth among all universities nationwide for its foreign student population, with 6,903 students from overseas on its main campus last fall. There were 3,420 undergraduate international students — about one in nine of all undergraduates.

Paul Briggs, a campus pastor with Salt and Light Christian Fellowship, a church that does outreach to foreign students at Purdue, said he's certain the increases would affect some students.

"Then the question is how much do they value education here, but it may drive them somewhere else in the world," he said.

Mohad Dhit, a graduate aerospace student from India, said he currently has no financial support for his studies.

"It would definitely put a lot of stress on me," Dhit said, adding that he would join the competitive field of students looking for assistantships to offset costs.

Provost Tim Sands said the increases are needed for administrative purposes and to develop scholarships for foreign students. The revenue would also create financial assistance for study abroad programs.

Michael Brzezinski, director of the office of International Students and Scholars, said the increased number of foreign students is driving the need for additional fees. The international student crop at Purdue grew 12.5 percent from 2009 to 2010.

One existing fee of $50 was added after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to cover new paperwork required for an international student tracking system mandated by the federal government. That fee, which had increased in recent years to $60, will increase again to $80 this fall.

The new fees being considered would be used to cover the cost of adding English language courses for international students. Brzezinski said he's also seeking two or three new positions in his office to handle extra paperwork and processing for the students.

He said he hopes the added costs won't hurt the amount of international interest Purdue has generated in recent years.

"Purdue's cost for education is still relatively low," Brzezinski said. "We're a good bargain."

Danielle Schiewer, a director of the International Center in West Lafayette, said there's a major payoff from having foreign students in the community. She said she hopes the fees won't shrink the campus' international student population.

"One of the best ways to break stereotypes is to be able to meet someone from that culture," she said. "You can read books all you want, but until you meet and spend time with (someone from that culture), you can't fully understand."

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