November 29, 2020

International students request more scholarships offered by Webster

Anurag Bhattacharyya is graduating with her master’s in March, and hopes to continue her education with Webster to receive her Ph.D. But as an international graduate student, Webster University offers her little in terms of financial aid and scholarships. With her low chances for financial assistance, her educational goals seem just as far away as the country she was born in.
At the Officers’ Summit, held Feb. 3, Bhattacharyya proposed Webster should offer more scholarships to both undergraduate and graduate international students. After her proposal made the list of the top five campus issues, student representatives will present the issue to the administrative council at the Delegates’ Agenda on Feb. 23. Though new scholarships may not be offered during her time at Webster, Bhattacharyya has hopes for future international students.
“There should be a motivation of encouraging education for international students,” Bhattacharyya said.
Because Webster is a private institution, both international and domestic students have the same tuition. Webster offers both international and American students entering the undergraduate program an automatic academic scholarship based on the student’s previous merit and academic performance.
Wisnu Sugiarto is a senior international student from Indonesia. He receives the renewable academic scholarship from Webster and also works two campus jobs. Sugiarto’s compensation for his position in Residential Life includes free campus housing. International students cannot apply for federal work-study, and budget jobs for students on campus are limited. Because of this, Sugiarto says he is lucky he has found not only one but two employment opportunities to add to his academic scholarship.
“It makes me feel very fortunate compared to other international students,” Sugiarto said. “I am shocked that I am here today. Growing up, I had this feeling that I wasn’t going to make it to the states. It seemed too expensive. If Webster would have not given me my scholarship, I might be at another school today.”
Tuition fees for graduate students are $605 per credit hour. Unlike undergraduate students, graduates do not receive any type of dedicated scholarships from Webster.
Bethany Keller, assistant director of the Multicultural Center & International Student Affairs (MCISA), said the closest form of scholarship graduate students can receive from Webster is a graduate assistantship.  She said the assistant position isn’t a scholarship, but graduate students receive a stipend along with a certain amount of remission off their tuition.
“Education is extremely expensive,” Keller said. “It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from. I think the point that the students are trying to make is to raise the experience of international students, so that the administration is looking at not just what it is like for U.S. students to come to college, but what the costs are that are involved for international students to come to college, as well.”
There are currently 228 international graduate students enrolled at Webster’s St. Louis campus, while there are 121 international undergraduate students.
“By giving scholarships to international students, you don’t only attract the diversity of where the students come from, but also the difference in economic and social status,” Sugiarto said. “There are so many levels of income in the states, but it is the same thing for international students. Some come from developed countries and some come from undeveloped countries.”
Suhani Fernando is a freshman international student from Sri Lanka. She will be one of the presenters for the topic of international scholarships at the Delegates’ Agenda. She said more international student scholarships would be a good idea.
“I know that many international students also check for a school’s scholarship availability when applying,” Fernando said.
Keller said the process international students go through to get into the U.S. is quite extensive. She said the wait time for some students to get their F-1 visas can sometimes take six months to a year.
“Students run a little bit of a marathon before they can actually even start their degree,” Keller said.  “It’s a big achievement to make it here to just start, which is why I feel so strongly about why we help students and support why they’re here. It’s a big commitment and big deal to come to a new place and commit yourself to studies in an environment not familiar to you.”
Bhattacharyya will not be able to volunteer to present her issue at the Delegates’ Agenda because of her busy schedule, but there are other students who will keep her issue alive.
“When it came to the top five, I couldn’t just let it go away,” Fernando said. “It’s just one of those instant feelings where you simply don’t want it to fade away after being identified.”

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