International Students Save Money at Community Colleges

December 11th, 2006 by admin

Even though more US colleges and universities are making financial aid and scholarships available to international students, most international students at US colleges and universities still must rely on their own sources of funds to pay for their education — like family funds, loans and savings. And the cost of education in the US continues to rise, both in tuition and other costs.

One solution that more and more students have found to make a US higher education more affordable is to attend a community college for two years. Community colleges usually offer 2-year programs that provide an “associates” degree, at much lower tuition than a traditional four-year school. Armed with an associates degree from a community college, students can move on to a full college or university and complete their undergraduate degree in only 2 years. Instead of paying four years of tuition at the higher rate for colleges and universities, students pay 2 years of community college tuition and 2 years of university or college tuition.

For example, the University of Florida estimates annual tuition and living expenses for an international undergraduate student at $30,205 for the 2006/2007 school year. Assuming that you could live on the estimated amount, and assuming no increase in costs over the four years (both questionable assumptions!), it would cost an international student $120,820 for a four-year undergraduate degree at the University of Florida.

If that student spent the first two years at Manatee Community College in Bradenton Florida (at $20,100 tuition and living expenses per year), and then 2 years at the University of Florida, the student still graduates with a University of Florida degree, but only spends a total of $100,610, saving over $20,000. There are many examples where the savings are even greater, but you get the idea.

US students have known this for years, and have been taking advantage of this system of community colleges. For US students, community colleges often also have the advantage of being close to home, so students can live at home and even continue to work, while paying the reduced tuition, making education even more affordable.

If there is a downside, its probably that completing your degree may be a little harder. I’ve never seen any statistics on it, but you must study hard, do well at community college, apply and be accepted to a new school after 2 years, then re-adjust and study hard to complete your degree there. This adds additional re-adjustment periods and transitions that the student who stays at one school for four years does not have to face. However, for highly directed and motivated students who will apply themselves and study hard wherever they are, it does offer a way to save a lot of money on your US higher education.

International students have started to figure the community college system out — community colleges are bursting with international students. For instance, Houston Community College has 3,227 international students, Santa Monica College has 2,658 international students, and there are over 40 2-year colleges in the US with 500 or more international students.

As enrollment of international students increase, these schools are also becoming increasingly adapt at and in tune to the needs of international students, making community colleges a realistic and much more affordable way to begin your international education.

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Sources of Funds for International Students in the US

December 1st, 2006 by admin

Most international students at US colleges and universities still must rely on their own sources of funds to pay for their education — like family funds, loans and savings. Although many US schools continue to increase the number of scholarships and the amount of financial aid available to international students (for instance, see InternationalStudent.com’s November newsletter article #7 about Stanford’s new policy), the responsibility for paying for college in the US still largely falls on the student and his or her family. This is particularly true for undergraduates.

Data from Open Doors 2006, an annual report published by the International Institute for Education, shows the sources of funds for international students in the US. Here’s an excerpt showing the primary source of funds for international undergraduate and graduate students in the US:

Primary Source of Funds
% Under- graduate
% Graduate
Personal & Family
81.5
46.1
U.S. College or University
11.4
46.5
Home Government/University
2.2
2.7
U.S. Government
0.3
0.6
U.S. Private Sponsor
2.1
1.0
Foreign Private Sponsor
1.7
1.5
International Organization
0.2
0.3
Current Employment
0.1
0.9
Other Sources
0.6
0.5

Graduate students are much more likely to receive financial assistance from their school, often in the form of assistantships, research grants, etc., whereas very few undergraduates receive any form of aid from their school. There are undergraduate scholarships available at many schools — search InternationalScholarships to see just how many are available — but the lesson from these numbers is, be prepared to pay your own way.

In addition to scholarships, International Student Loans are available to international students in the US or Canada, if you have or can find a US co-signer. These loans are just as good as domestic US students can get, and make study in the US possible for thousands of international students.

But even with loans available, no one wants to be hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt coming out of college, which is easy to rack up at expensive schools in expensive cities (see our post on evaluating school program costs). A solution that more and more international students are turning to is the system of community colleges in the US. Just like US students, international students have figured out that they can save tens of thousands of dollars by doing the first two years of an undergraduate degree at a community college, then transfering to a four-year school to complete your degree.

In the next post, we’ll talk about international students accessing community colleges in the US.

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Number of International Students in the US Poised to Rebound

November 14th, 2006 by admin

Each year, the Institute of International Education (IIE) publishes the “Open Doors” report on the number of international students in the US, together with detailed demographic information on the international student population. The 2006 Open Doors report was released this week, showing that the overall number of international students in the US has held steady from last year, at about 565,000. However, the number of new enrollments grew by 8%, from about 132,000 to about 143,000, indicating that the number of international students in the US is poised to return to the historic norm of steady year over year growth.

Open Doors 2006 shows an increase in the number of international students that rely primarily on personal and family funds to pay for their US education, from 61.8% to 63.4% of international students. Although it is still difficult to pay for a US education, funds from international student loans are included in that category, making the number a little bit deceiving.

There are also a lot of scholarship recipients in the US international student population — 25.9% of international students list their US college or university as their primary source of funds. You can find lots of these scholarships listed at InternationalScholarships.com.

A few snapshots from Open Doors 2006:

US Schools With the Most International Students

University of South California 6,881
Columbia University 5,575
Purdue University 5,540
New York University 5,502
University of Texas – Austin 5,395

Leading Countries of Origin

India 76,503
China 62,582
Korea 58,847
Japan 38,712
Canada 28,202

US States with the Most International Students

California 75,385
New York 64,283
Texas 46,869
Massachusetts 28,007
Florida 26,058

Most Popular Fields of Study For International Students

Business and Management 18%
Engineering 16%
Physical and Life Sciences 9%
Social Sciences 8%
Mathematics and Computer Sciences 8%

Click here to see more details on the Open Doors 2006 report
.

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$2,000 Holiday Travel Contest – Only for International Students!

November 7th, 2006 by admin

InternationalStudent.com unveiled an exciting new video contest last week, with an entry deadline of December 1. The winner will be announced the week of December 4-8, and the finalists will be available for all to see on InternationalStudent.com. You can win $2,000 to travel anywhere in the world — not to mention worldwide fame if your video is posted on the site! Any trip you want to take, and InternationalStudent.com will pay for it.

To enter, you must submit a 4-8 minute video that describes the trip you would take if you win, and why you should win. The best entry will win the $2,000 grand prize — so be funny, or include some great footage and music, or tell a great story — something to get your entry noticed and stand out from the crowd. Film students, technical and artistic types — you have a leg up on the competition. But it is open to anyone 18 or older and studying outside their home country.

For more information and to get an entry form, go to: http://www.InternationalStudent.com/contest/


Employment with a Recognized International Institution

November 6th, 2006 by admin

Today’s is the final post in our series on employment rules for F1 students in the US, covering employment with approved international organizations. You can see the earlier posts here:

Off-Campus Employment Now Permitted in Canada
On-Campus Employment in the US
Off-Campus Employment in the US – Severe Economic Hardship
Off-Campus Employment in the US – Optional Practical Training
Off-Campus Employment in the US – Curriculur Practical Training

Employment with an International Organization

The final category of employment for international students in the US on F1 visas is employment with a “recognized international organization.” To qualify, an organization must be on the official State Department list, and listed organizations include the Red Cross, African and Asian Development Banks, the World Health Organization, the World Trade Organization, and many other similar but less well-known organizations. Because it does not have the universal application of OPT or CPT, this category of employment is often overlooked. Only students with a job offer and sponsorship from one of the listed organizations are eligible. However, for those lucky students that do have such sponsorship, there are clear benefits to this category of employment.

Requirements to work for an international organization:

* The student must have an internship/employment with a “recognized international organization.” To see a recent listing of all “recognized international organizations, click here
* The employment must be within the scope of the organization’s sponsorship, and within the student’s field of study.
* The student must have been in valid F-1 status for at least one full academic year
* The student must be in good academic standing

If you meet these requirements, you can apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). Only after you receive your EAD, which can take up to 3 months, can you start to work.

There are certain advantages of this type of employment when compared to CPT or OPT.

* Employment does not have to be for-credit nor required for your degree program
* Regardless of how much or how long you work, this type of employment will not take away from your 12-month post-completion OPT

To see the text of the entire rule governing off-campus employment with recognized international organizations by F1 students, click here.

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Swedish Schools Still Free for International Students — For Now

October 30th, 2006 by admin

The number of international students in Sweden has been growing rapidly, primarily due to two factors. First, because Sweden is so committed to universal English in its population, there are lots of academic offerings in English. International students can find English language programs in all of the most popular disciplines — which include social sciences, business or law (34.8 % of international student in Sweden); engineering, manufacturing and construction (17.9%); humanities and arts (17.6%); sciences (12.4%); health and welfare (9.1%); and education (4.8%). The number of international students in Sweden has now surpassed 36,000.

Second, international students pay no tuition!! Just like Swedish students, international students admitted to Swedish undergraduate or masters programs can attend without paying any tuition. This is reflective of an overall commitment to higher education — Sweden ranked third in spending worldwide on tertiary education at 2.2% of GDP, behind only Denmark and Norway.

For more information on the increasing number of international students in Sweden, read the whole article from StudyinSweden.se here.

However, this great deal is being threatened. Sweden has proposed charging tuition to all international students except those from EU countries. This week, Swedish universities and unions went on the record to object to the government proposal . Academics are concerned that proposals to introduce tuition fees for international students at Sweden’s universities could discourage gifted foreign students from coming to study in Sweden.

To find out more, you can read the entire article from The Local here. Lets hope that Sweden maintains its commitment to international education, as any affordable international education program, no matter how few spots are available, provides hope and opportunity to students that couldn’t otherwise afford to go abroad.

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Curricular Practical Training (CPT) – Off-Campus Employment in the US

October 25th, 2006 by admin

Today’s post covers Curricular Practical Training (CPT), a category of off-campus employment allowed for F1 students in the US. This post is part of our series covering employment rules for international students in English-speaking countries. You can see the earlier posts here:

Off-Campus Employment Now Permitted in Canada
On-Campus Employment in the US
Off-Campus Employment in the US – Severe Economic Hardship
Off-Campus Employment in the US – Optional Practical Training

Curricular Practical Training

Curriculur Practical Training (CPT) is an off-campus employment option for F1 students when the practical training is an integral part of the established curriculum or academic program. CPT employment is defined as “alternative work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum that is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school.” To qualify, the work experience must be required for your degree, or academic credit must awarded. And yes, you can get paid for CPT employment. Prior authorization by your school’s international student office and notification to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) is required.

To be eligible for CPT employment:

*You must have been enrolled in school full-time for one year on valid F1 status (except for graduate students where the program requires immediate CPT)
*The CPT employment must be an integral part of your degree program or requirement for a course for which you receive academic credit
*You must have received a job offer that qualifies before you submit your CPT authorization request
*Your job offer must be in your major or field of study

Your International Student Office must authorize you for CPT. Once you receive CPT authorization, you can only work for the specific employer and for the specific dates authorized (unlike with OPT or severe economic hardship off-campus employment, where you can work anywhere in the US). Your CPT authorization will also specify whether you are approved for part-time (20 hours per week or less) or full-time (more than 20 hours per week) CPT employment. While in school, you can only be approved for part-time CPT.

Regardless of whether you are approved for full or part-time on CPT, there is no limit to how long you can work. However, if you work full-time on CPT for 12 months or more, you are not eligible for OPT. If you work part-time on CPT, or full-time on CPT for less than 12 months, you are still eligible for all of your allowable OPT. So make sure you watch the dates and hours closely – don’t jeopardize your OPT!

As with all employment, you should work closely with your international student office. The general rules will apply somewhat differently to undergraduates, graduate students and PhD candidates, and the advisors in your international student office can guide you. They can help you determine your eligibility for CPT, make sure your job offer qualifies, and make sure you follow all necessary steps in applying to USCIS. They also have to authorize your CPT, so you have no choice – you have to work with them. But they are pros, especially when it comes to USCIS regulations, so use them – they are there to help you.

To see the text of the entire rules governing Curricular Practical Training by F1 students, click here and scroll down to paragraph (10)(i).

Next Post:

Approved International Institutions

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Optional Practical Training (OPT) for F1 Students in the US

October 18th, 2006 by admin

Today’s post covers Optional Practical Training (OPT), a category of off-campus employment allowed for F1 students in the US. This post is part of our series covering employment rules for international students in English-speaking countries. You can see earlier posts in the series here:

Off-Campus Employment Now Permitted in Canada
On-Campus Employment in the US
Off-Campus Employment in the US – Severe Economic Hardship

Optional Practical Training

International students in the US in valid F1 immigration status are permitted to work off-campus in OPT status both during and after completion of their degree. Rules established by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) govern the implementation of OPT, and all OPT employment requires prior authorization from USCIS and from your school’s International Student Office.

You can apply for OPT after being enrolled for at least 9 months, but you cannot begin employment until you receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCIS and you have been enrolled for at least a year. You do not need to have a job offer to apply for your OPT EAD, and your OPT employment can occur anywhere in the US. Start early — USCIS takes up to 90 days to process your application – and make sure you work closely with your school’s International Student Office. As with everything you will do while in the US, permission is based on maintaining lawful F1 status, and your International Student Office is there to help you maintain that status throughout your stay.

General OPT Requirements

• Employment must be “directly related” to the student’s major
• Student must maintain lawful F1 status
• Student must apply for OPT before completion of all work towards a degree
• Students who have engaged in 12 months or more of full-time Curriculur Practical Training (CPT) are not eligible for OPT
• OPT is permitted for up to 12 months full-time in total – part-time OPT (while still in school) reduces available full-time OPT by half of the amount of part-time work (for instance, if you work part time for 6 months, you can work full-time for up to 9 months)

Students can be authorized for 12 months of OPT for each successive level of degree achieved – for instance, you can do 12 months of OPT after receiving your undergraduate degree, go back to graduate school, and then do 12 months of OPT after receiving your graduate degree. Pre-completion OPT (students are still in school) and post-completion OPT (students have completed their degree) each have different rules:

OPT before completing a degree:

• Students must be enrolled in school full-time
• Students may only work 20 hours per week while school is in session
• Students may work full-time during summer and other breaks (as long as the student will return to school after the break)
• Student may work full-time after completion of all coursework, if a thesis or dissertation is still required and student is making normal progress towards the degree

OPT after completing a degree:

• After completion of your degree, OPT work must be full time (40 hours/week)
• All OPT must be completed within 14 months after completion of your degree
• Applications for post-completion OPT must be received by USCIS before the completion of the degree

One final note – be mindful of the travel regulations governing F1 students on OPT. If you leave the country after completion of your degree, but before receiving your EAD and obtaining a job, you may not be readmitted. You can leave the country after completion of your degree if you have your EAD and a job, but make sure you bring everything that you’ll need to get back in (including valid passport, valid EAD card, valid F1 visa, all your I-20s with page 3 endorsed for travel by your international student advisor within the past 6 months, and a letter of employment, including dates of employment and salary).

To see the text of the entire rules governing Optional Practical Training by F1 students, click here and scroll down to paragraph (10)(ii).

Next Posts:

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
Approved International Institutions

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Off-Campus Employment for F1 Students

October 6th, 2006 by admin

Following our post explaining the rules for F1 students working on-campus, the next four posts will address the four general categories of off-campus employment opportunities for F1 students. As a general rule, off-campus employment is regulated more strictly, and employment requires prior authorization from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).

Off-Campus Employment. International students in F-1 status have several off-campus employment options available to them, provided they are maintaining lawful student status and are doing well academically.

The four general categories of off-campus employment are:

Severe Economic Hardship
Optional Practical Training (OPT)
Curriculur Optional Training (CPT)
Recognized International Institution

Severe Economic Hardship

Any F1 student suffering “severe economic hardship” as defined by USCIS is eligible to work off-campus for up to 20 hours per week while school is in session, and full-time during breaks.

To be eligible, a student must:

* be in valid F-1 status for at least one academic year (9 months)
* be in good academic standing
* provide evidence of economic hardship based on unforeseen circumstances beyond the student’s control
* show that on-campus employment is neither available nor sufficient
* make a good faith effort to locate employment on campus before applying

The rule gives examples of the types of things that could be considered “severe economic hardship caused by unforeseen circumstances beyond the student’s control.” These circumstances may include:

• loss of financial aid or on-campus employment without fault on the part of the student
• substantial fluctuations in the value of currency or exchange rate
• inordinate increases in tuition and/or living costs
• unexpected changes in the financial condition of the student’s source of support
• medical bills
• or other substantial and unexpected expenses.

You must apply for an “employment authorization document” (EAD) with the help and guidance of your International Student Office — you do not need a job offer before you apply for the EAD. But several forms and documents are required, together with fees and photos, etc., and processing can take up to 12 weeks or longer — and you cannot start work until you receive the EAD. The designated school official (DSO) at your school’s International Student Office — typically an international student advisor — must certify to USCIS that you meet all the requirements.

Once you receive the EAD, you may work for an employer at any job, anywhere in the United States. Employment authorization is automatically terminated when a student fails to maintain valid F1 status.

To see the text of the entire rules governing “severe economic hardship” off-campus employment by F1 students, click here and scroll down to paragraph (9)(ii)(C).

Links to posts in our international student employment rules series:

Canada Off-Campus Employment for International Students
On-Campus Employment in the US for F1 Students

Next Posts:

Optional Practical Training (OPT)
Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
Recognized International Institution

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US Employment Rules for F1 Students (On Campus)

October 6th, 2006 by admin

Most international students in the United States hold an F1 visa, which is the US non-immigrant student visa. F1 students are allowed to work in the United States, but only under certain conditions and in accordance with complex guidelines and restrictions issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).

Generally, all employment is contingent on remaining within the terms and restrictions of your F1 visa. There are several categories of employment during the term of your stay as an F1 student in the US. This post will address on-campus employment. In the next posts, we’ll address off-campus employment, including severe economic hardship, optional practical training (OPT), curricular practical training (CPT), and recognized international institution employment categories.

On-Campus Employment. On-campus employment is the category most freely permitted by the USCIS regulations, and does not require USCIS approval. However, although F1 status includes an on-campus employment privilege, on-campus employment opportunities at most schools are limited. Even if you can obtain on-campus employment, you may not rely on it to prove financial resources for the year, and often these jobs are not related to your studies. Many schools do require that you obtain permission from the International Student Office prior to accepting any on-campus employment, and may not permit such employment in a student’s first semester or year.

For on-campus work, an F1 student is subject to the following rules:

* You must maintain valid F1 status

* You can work up to 20 hours per week while school is in session

* You can work full time on campus during holidays and vacation periods, if you intend to register for the next academic semester.

* The employment may not displace (take a job away from) a U.S. resident

The definition of on-campus employment includes:

*Work performed on the school’s premises directly for your school (including work affiliated with a grant or assistantship).

*Work performed for on-location commercial firms which provide services for students on campus, such as the school bookstore or cafeteria.

(Employment with on-site commercial firms which do not provide direct student services, such as a construction company building a school building, is not deemed on-campus employment for the purposes of the rule.)

*Work performed at an off-campus location which is educationally affiliated with the school. The educational affiliation must be associated with the school’s established curriculum or related to contractually funded research projects at the post-graduate level. In any event, the employment must be an integral part of the student’s educational program.

Since your status is always contingent on your school’s support, you must seek guidance and clearance from your International Student Office prior to applying for or accepting any employment, and you should request their particular interpretation of any ambiguous situation. You will also need your school’s guidance to ensure that you file all appropriate forms with USCIS and receive any necessary USCIS approval.

To see the text of the entire rules governing on-campus employment by F1 students, click here.

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