Removal of international student services fee to reduce UC Berkeley International Office budget

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UC Berkeley international students will no longer have to pay the international student services fee — a biannual $56 payment instituted for the 2018-2019 academic year — as recommended by the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Student Services and Fees on Oct. 10.

Although the UC Berkeley International Office, or BIO, initially wanted to increase the fee to $117, lobbying by ASUC Senators James Li and Andy Theocharous, in collaboration with the ASUC Office of the President and the Executive Board of the Graduate Assembly, resulted in the removal of the fee entirely. The change, however, will result in BIO losing about half of its budget.

The rise of nonresident supplement tuition last year by $978, absent international financial aid and limited work-study opportunities leave most international students with a substantial financial burden, according to Theocharous. The removal of the service fee aims to reduce this burden.

The implementation of the service fee is an indication that “(UC Berkeley) failed to administer its budget properly,” Theocharous said.

“The Berkeley International Office lost funding to the vice chancellor for research — to make up for that funding, they wanted to impose a fee,” Theocharous said.

The decision to remove the international student services fee will reduce the BIO’s budget by $672,000, according to Ivor Emmanuel, the director of BIO.

BIO is responsible for advising, organizing programs and workshops and producing visa documentation for the 6,569 international students on campus, according to BIO’s website. As a result of the decision, the office will lose most of its “stable” funding gained from student fees. It will instead increase its reliance on resources provided by the administration, but the change will make operating and providing the necessary services “untenable,” according to Emmanuel.

The removal of the service fee will also result in a reduction in BIO staff.

Emmanuel emphasized the importance of the international student service fees as a source of BIO revenue in light of the campus’s “tight budgetary situation.” These conditions have made it harder for the campus to maintain compliance reporting with the Department of Homeland Security, according to Emmanuel.

The financial pressures placed on BIO and lack of international financial aid has resulted in increased conversation between ASUC Senators Li and Theocharous and the administration of BIO. They aim to find a suitable model to fund BIO in a “sustainable way,” as well as to increase the amount of financial aid available to international students, Emmanuel said.

“The immigration landscape is getting more and more complex each week, and because of the importance of ensuring that students get the best immigration advice and support, we all need to work together,” Emmanuel said. “Student leaders and the administration (need) to come up with a viable model to conduct our duties in the best way possible.”

Contact Yousef Al Refaei at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @RefaeiYousef.

A previous version of this article may have implied that the international student services fee was a permanent semesterly payment. In fact, it had only been approved for the 2018-19 academic year.

A previous version of this article may have implied that only international student tuition increased by $978. In fact, all nonresident student tuition increased by $978.

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Student Services and Fees decided to remove the international student services fee. In fact, the committee recommended the removal of the fee.