President Edward Inch paid a visit to Wednesday’s Student Government meeting to answer questions from senators about student wage increases and international student issues.
Senator Douglas Roberts asked Inch if he can “make the commitment today to prioritize student wages, graduate assistant and student wages across the board, at this university in this upcoming year’s budget.”
Inch responded, “No, I cannot.” He said his biggest priority is ensuring students graduate “in a timely way with a minimal amount of debt,” and to eliminate “equity gaps,” which could increase with additional fees if wages are increased without increased revenue.
“While I think salaries are important, and I’ll commit to doing what I can there, I’m not going to sacrifice (my) two higher priorities,” Inch said.
Senator Darlington Sehgbean raised the issue of a change made in May to international students’ health insurance payment policy. Prior to this change, international students paid their healthcare fee twice a year as a split-payment. The change in May requires them to pay their fee once in its entirety. The current fee is $2,150 and it increases yearly.
Inch explained that the reason for the switch to one-time payments is that the university must pay a one-time payment for its health insurance regardless of whether the second payment is missed.
“If the student doesn’t make the second-half payment, it still has to come out of somewhere. So we have to choose where that comes out of if we want to go to a two-payment policy,” he said.
Neither the Student Government nor the International Student Association were consulted prior to changing this policy.
After Inch’s presentation, the senate voted on the International Student Insurance Policy Resolution, along with the Resolution to Continue Expanded Free Parking. Both resolutions passed unanimously.
Senator Sehgbean is an international student who has been vocal about this policy change. He surveyed over 100 students, 25% of whom were domestic, and the majority said they are in favor of keeping the split-payment policy. According to him, the one-year purchase policy is a retention issue for international students.
“International students are people who have a unique situation when it comes to affordability issues. These are students who, most of them that I have talked to, have come to the US on full scholarships, sponsorships, family commitments, relative commitments, but unfortunately, due to COVID-19, situations have changed,” he said. “The educational requirement in terms of tuition and fees, (is) expensive for them. Having to pay a one-year, full insurance coverage, is not helping them. It is only going to make it harder for them to afford staying in school.”
According to Student Government President Emma Zellmer, both of the resolutions will go to Inch’s desk for approval. The parking resolution, which continues the free lot expansion into the back of lot 22 beyond Nov. 1, will also go to the parking committee, which comprises students, faculty and staff.
Header photo: President Inch stopped by at the latest Student Government meeting to discuss increases in student wages and issues regarding international students. (Dylan Engel/The Reporter)
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