International Students Face Winter Break Housing Fees
As the holiday season approaches, most students are excited to get through this semester and enjoy a much-deserved winter break at home. But there are some students who plan to call campus “home” for Winter Break – namely international students.
But numerous international students have recently raised concerns about their winter break plans after receiving a troubling email in late November from Amy Weir, Director of the International Center and the International Students Advisor.
“I recently learned the cost to remain on Wabash’s campus for the Winter Break— students will be charged $20/night for each day that they choose to remain on campus,” wrote Weir. “I know that finances drive many decisions, including this one, so I’m hopeful that you now have the information to make the best decision for your Winter Break plans.”
“I don’t know why they would do that,” said Alex Rotaru ‘22, an international student from Bucharest, Romania.
Weir said that in the seven years she has worked here, she has not seen a fee like this being implemented for students. “Students were also charged $5 in the summer, but in the summer those students all have on campus jobs. So they’re all making money… money that they can use to pay their summer housing costs,” Weir said. “Over the winter break, some of the students will have on campus jobs, but not all of them.”
Io Maeda ‘24, an international student from Kyoto, Japan, said, “$20 is pretty cheap compared to living in a hotel, but for a lot of international students whose majority of cost of attendance are paid for by the College through financial aid, $20 becomes a major deal — especially when it’s for a month.”
Dean Redding ‘88, Dean of Students, allays those fears by saying that students staying on campus will not have to pay for the entire winter-break, but only until the time athletes and seniors start to return on campus, bringing the total pay period down to 17 days.
“So what we’re going to be looking at is when do we have kind of a critical mass of students back. You know, if we’ve got a decent number of students back, we’re not going to charge.” Dean Redding said. “So it’s going to be less time than you think.”
“We’re in a position where we’re not pushing anyone away,” said Associate Dean of Students Marc Welch ‘99, Associate Dean of Students. “We are encouraging them because everyone needs a break. And students need a break from here if they can get it – so if they can find a place to stay or if they have friends or family off campus, It serves them well to have that break.” Maeda, who will be staying with a professor over break, said “I feel lucky because my academic advisor was so kind to allow me to stay with him. But I really feel sorry for other international students who won’t be able to make arrangements like these in such a short span of time, and will have to bear the living costs, on top of the food expenses, themselves.”
Dean Redding clarified that Wabash has been “very unusual among our peer institutions in not charging students during the break…and it was a coincidence that someone from Ohio Wesleyan started a thread on the GLCA listserv, asking other colleges what they were charging students over the break, as they wanted to raise their price to $25 per night, but because of some pushback, they decided to keep it $20.” Dean Redding also said that $20 is the lowest rate that any college in the GLCA is charging.
Denison University, another small liberal arts college in the GLCA, decided to not allow students to stay on campus at all.
Dean Redding said that the College understands the financial needs of international students, for which the College has several support funds that students can apply for, in order to meet their expenses.
“We can either subsidize the costs to some degree…or we can look if we’ve got funds to cover the entire cost of living,” said Dean Redding. “We’ve had these Student Support Funds over the last couple of years, and we have spent an awful lot of that money because everybody’s financial need has been so much during COVID, so we have less of that funding available than we had say last year.”
“So we’ll try to help as much as we can, but we’ll have to really scrutinize those requests very carefully and make sure that they’re legitimate requests, because we might not be able to cover all of them,” said Redding.
Amy Weir said that she was not present at the time this decision was made, nor was her opinion requested.
“I’ve been trying to get on more and more committees because I feel that [the international students’] perspective is often forgotten or just overlooked entirely,” said Weir. “This is a problem that I’ve brought up several times. But there are a lot of farreaching decisions made on campus that I’m not involved in. And it happens a lot that the people who are making the decisions don’t think about international students. And, I understand everyone makes a decision from their own point of view, and I won’t represent [international students] as well as a student, but I would represent you and be more thoughtful about you guys.”