Put global students on the map

Being an international student at UNC comes at a price — an out-of-state price.

While invaluable, it’s not an experience everyone can afford, even before currency exchanges that can work against you.

Paying more than $41,000 a year in undergraduate tuition and fees is a large weight to carry for anybody. But it’s especially taxing for international students, who are ineligible for most scholarships and financial aid.

According to the admissions office, the University offers only a “very limited number of merit scholarships” for incoming international students.

I wasn’t one of them.

But I remember darting back and forth between offices during my freshman year, only to realize my chances of getting financial aid were close to none.

International students with green cards, legally allowed to work and live permanently in the United States, are the only ones who can be considered. But those green cards are hardly an option for students arriving at UNC directly from their home countries. Those students will usually receive student visas and are only allowed to work up to 20 hours a week during the academic year.

Though limiting, the opportunities a visa affords students are better than nothing. I, for example, was allowed to work as a Spanish teacher’s assistant during my sophomore year in exchange for class credit.

But class credit doesn’t pay rent.

This year, I faced new hurdles. Looking for at least minimum-wage work, I went to the international student office for a list of on-campus jobs.

Resume in hand, I was rejected time and again, as they were only accepting applications from work-study students. A quick phone call informed me of what I already knew: International students are ineligible for work-study.

I must have visited every department’s library for a student assistant position when I finally spilled my guts to a librarian in Carroll Hall.

“I’m an international student,” I said.

She smiled sympathetically.

“We have no money,” she replied.

On-campus work is the only chance international students have for making an honest wage. This semester, I didn’t stand a chance.

I was never lied to. From the moment I applied, the international student office has told me of the opportunities UNC can and cannot offer.

In many ways, they have been a helpful ally.

But now, in my fourth year at UNC, I feel like some of the 1,493 of us on campus fall through the cracks too often.

Some Ivy League universities and a few others are able to offer financial aid to international students because they are privately funded. But there are public universities, like UC-Berkeley, that offer opportunities for funding after one year of study.

Work-study positions are also available.

At a university that prides itself on reaching beyond its borders to attract global talent and imbue students with a world view, international students should become a bigger part of the conversation.

Thanks for reading.

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