FOIFT’s Light of Day project results in student stories on university fees

Students at Texas State University this semester tracked data on student fees as part of the FOI Foundation’s Light of Day Project and used the information to report news stories. Here is one of the recently published student articles.

By Catherine O’Hara
The University Star
Originally published April 22, 2014

The Study Abroad Office saw a record number of scholarship applications funded by the International Education Fee during summer 2014, according to university officials.

The Study Abroad Office is often able to award every student who applies for the International Education Fee Scholarship during the fall and spring semesters, said Isis De La O, assistant director of the Study Abroad Program. Generally, fewer students choose to study abroad during fall or spring semesters due to the longer length of the programs during these semesters. More than 500 applications were submitted.

The number of applicants has increased due to the addition of more study abroad programs, increased emphasis on programs as well as recruiting and more funding, De la O said.

Each semester, graduate and undergraduate students pay a flat rate fee of $3 toward the International Education Fee regardless of the number of hours they are enrolled, according to the university website.

“All students pay the fee unless they have an exemption or waiver for all fees,” said Cindy Kruckemeyer, director of Student Business Services.

The fee collected is used to directly fund scholarships for international student exchange and study abroad, said Chris Murr, director of Financial Aid and Scholarships.

During the 2013-2014 school year, $300,000 was available to award to students, which is an increase of $100,000 from the past annual budget, said Brendan Scott, budget specialist for the Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs.

The extra funds came from money set aside from unclaimed awards in previous years. De La O said the study abroad office does what it can to award the total budgeted amount each year without a remainder, and the International Education Fee students pay only funds scholarships.

“Our goal is to distribute the full budget,” Scott said. “Sometimes we award and (students) don’t accept it because they didn’t (study abroad).”

Financial Aid and Scholarships reports the available funds to the Study Abroad Office after it calculates the total budget collected from the student fee, which then gives the numbers to a scholarship committee, De La O said.

The scholarship committee determines award amounts based off funds available and distributes the awards to applicants based on a point system, De La O said.

Points are determined according to a student’s GPA, financial need, length of study abroad program and whether or not the student is a prior International Education Fee Scholarship recipient, De La O said.

“The student with the higher score will definitely get more than the student at the bottom of the list,” De La O said. “The maximum is $3,500, but sometimes students don’t get that. We’re trying to distribute and stretch that money as much as we can by being fair.”

Several times throughout the semester, the Study Abroad Office and scholarship committee reevaluate and redistribute the rejected awards to students with less points, De La O said.