New scholarship bridges gap for international students

A new scholarship will provide merit-based aid to international students.

While domestic MU students anxiously await their federal financial aid, international students are looking for ways to fund their college education in the United States.

“Our office does not award any direct aid to international students,” said Nick Prewett, Interim Director of Student Financial Aid, in an email. “Most aid for international students comes from the campus department or academic unit in the form of scholarships or assistantships.”

Financial aid resources for international students are limited and highly competitive, according to the MU International Center’s website. The International Center does offer a few scholarships including the Curator’s Grant-in-Aid Program and the Global Heritage Scholarship.

Effective fall 2012, international applicants will be able to receive automatic scholarships based on merit, Assistant Director of Admissions John Wilkerson said.

The International Merit Scholarship will work similarly to the Mark Twain Nonresident Scholarship, where test scores decide who is eligible to receive it. The $4,000 scholarship is renewable annually. International students are judged on the Test of English as a Foreign Language and the SAT.

“We’re actually in very small company to have automatic merit based awards for international students,” Wilkerson said. “That’s something we’re very proud of because it speaks toward MU’s commitment to diversity and creating a global campus.”

Scholarships such as the curator’s Grant-in-Aid Program do take into consideration money given to students from their home governments. Wilkerson said each country gives out money differently.

“We’re probably, for example, not going to see a student from Denmark applying for a Grant-in-Aid program because they’re full of funding,” he said.

Junior Maria Christensen from Denmark said her government makes funding education a priority.

“Denmark has free education and every single person who chooses to take an education will get a monthly payment from when they are 18 years old,” she said in an email. “The amount depends on if you are still living at home, if you have your own apartment, if you have any kids or any sort of disabilities etc. and when you turn 21, you will get more money.”

Christensen said the government still pays for students to travel abroad after they have shown they will stay in that country for more than a year. This avoids students traveling just to have fun.

As a member of the womens’ tennis team, Christensen receives a full scholarship from MU. The Danish government still pays her $1,000 a month for her education.

Graduate students looking for other funding options can apply for assistantships. Wilkinson said the international population at MU is largely composed of graduate students. Assistantships can provide a tuition waver and sometimes a stipend.

Yonghong Bai, a Chinese doctoral student in biological engineering, works as a research assistant at MU and receives a stipend from the university.

Bai said the Chinese government offers financial aid to graduate students to allow them to travel to other countries. He said the extra money makes students more likely to study abroad.

Wilkerson said international students have to evidence that they can afford living in the country as well as tuition. Compared to universities on the East or West Coasts, Wilkerson said a school like MU can seem more appealing partially because of its lower costs of living.

“Often times a student may not be able to secure funding for a more expensive university but they can still get a tier-one research institution at MU,” Wilkerson said.

Correction appended: We originally ran that this scholarship would be effective starting in fall 2011, but we have corrected that information to be fall 2012.

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