Southeast Missouri State University student publication

International students limited to on-campus jobs can receive financial aid

Monday, September 17, 2012
International student and Chartwells employee Rajesh Vemuri prepares a meal. Photo by Kyle Thies

International students in financial need and actively looking for work may have the opportunity to receive aid in their job search. The International Center has funding for qualifying students that focuses on finding them employment.

Southeast Missouri State University has an International Student Work Program, which is designed to give departments on campus with employment opportunities an incentive to hire certain international students. This program pays a portion of the student's wage to increase the student's chances of being hired.

Suzanne McKinney, assistant director of International Programming, said international students' financial situations could change for many different reasons.

"Some international students will find themselves in financial difficulty," McKinney said. "Whether it's because of an illness in the family, or maybe a parent loses their job, this gives these students an option if they don't have the money anymore."

The International Center does not give out funding to every student that asks for it. The program is designated for students that meet the academic and financial qualifications and have been working hard to find a job. The aid is rarely used and averages about one or two appearances a semester, McKinney said.

The program was modeled after the work study program that the federal student aid program provides to qualifying students. Cassandra Hicks, student employment coordinator, has helped many students understand its benefits.

Students who are approved for work study receive financial aid through employment. The departments involved also get the benefit of having "25 percent of the students' wages paid for," Hicks said.

Domestic students have the option to receive financial aid from the government by filling out the free application for federal student aid, which qualifies students for loans, grants and sometimes work study. International students do not have the option to fill out a FAFSA application because only United States citizens qualify for the aid it provides. For this reason, international students cannot participate in the normal work study program.

Besides the International Student Work Program, employers on campus do not get much incentive to hire international students. Students from other countries are at a disadvantage because federal regulations restrict them from finding employment off campus.

Warren Skinner, the coordinator of Career Linkages, sees a lot of international students come through his office on a daily basis. He shows them what their options are, but there are only a limited number of positions available for them.

"An international student can't work off campus without a visa or Social Security Number," Skinner said.

Trevor Sumner, marketing director for Chartwells, is aware of the trouble that international students experience looking for a job.

"As far as I know, Chartwells doesn't get any benefit from hiring international students," Sumner said.

Chartwells has a lot of international students on staff, but that is due to the overwhelming number of applications it gets from them, Sumner said.

McKinney said that people are slowly becoming more aware that the international work program exists. However, the real struggle is getting this information out to the different departments with jobs available.

Easin Nasib, an international student from Bangladesh, has worked for Chartwells for two years. He had some difficulty adjusting when he started, but he quickly got used to the job.

"As an international student, I sometimes had trouble due to my language barrier," Nasib said. "But everything was explained really well and slowly."