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Editorial: UC must give more international student support facing ‘public charge’ policy

By Editorial Board

Aug. 18, 2019 10:47 p.m.

Flying across the globe to earn a degree seems like plenty to worry about.

But now, international students will have yet another set of hoops to jump through.

The Department of Homeland Security issued an expansion to its “public charge” policy on Aug. 12, set to go into effect Oct. 15. The change will make it more difficult for legal immigrants to obtain green cards or visas based on their expected use of public services including Medicaid, food stamps and housing vouchers.

A “public charge” is defined as an individual, such as a college student, who will be dependent on the government for assistance and support while pursuing their professional and academic careers, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Within the University of California, this policy has the potential to disrupt the higher education of thousands of international students. If these students use public services – services they have every legal right to – they could be denied an education in the U.S. And considering the UC’s lack of resources for international students, this policy is sure to be an added deterrent for many students.

And the deterrents are already substantial.

The application process for international students applying to colleges across the country is riddled with obstacles, from extensive documentation to language requirements – making it difficult to follow.

According to a survey of international students conducted by UCLA’s Dashew Center in 2016, 62% of undergraduate students plan to stay in the U.S. after graduation – either to work or get another degree.

But with the new rule now in effect, international students face an uphill battle to enter the U.S. higher education system – let alone remain in the country after graduation.

UC President Janet Napolitano said in a statement that the Trump administration’s regulation sets a dangerous precedent discouraging potential international students who strive to attend college in the U.S.

Her response isn’t surprising – but for all the wrong reasons.

UCLA’s international students are already given nearly no financial support. The international students admitted to UCLA for fall of 2019 are estimated to pay a minimum of close to $64,500 per year. Additionally, UCLA does not grant scholarships or financial aid to any undergraduate students who are not citizens or permanent residents, according to UCLA’s admissions website.

With the UC’s international student population increasing by more than double over the last decade, it’s no wonder Napolitano and the UC schools are worried – if enrollment of international students declines, the UCs will lose a large chunk of their out-of-state tuition.

Napolitano has made a strong first step by publicly speaking out against the policy. But the UC needs to practice what it preaches to ensure current international students are educated on the new laws and the population abroad is not deterred from applying.

With a large international student population comes a global and intellectual exchange that creates a richer college experience – a tradition UCLA celebrates in rivaling other campuses, both in California and across the country.

As of now, though, international students are caught between an unprecedented federal government and a chance at a world class education – all while the UC stands idly by.

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