As Florida A & M University international students face financial aid troubles, Craig Smikle, 21, president of the International Students Association, came before the 35th Student Senate to express his concerns.
The International Student Association is an organization composed of mostly international students, and those with international interest.
ISA’s main objectives are to “prove awareness of the various cultures represented here at FAMU and secondly to assist the orientation of the social and academic development of the international students here,” said Smikle, a senior computer information science student from Annotto Bay, Jamaica.
ISA also steps in whenever there is a problem concerning international students. One problem currently facing international college students all across Florida is financial aid.
A bill is being passed in the state senate to prohibit international students from receiving financial assistance from state funds such as grants or scholarships.
Smikle, who has a F1 visa, would be affected if this bill is passed through the Florida Senate, House or Representatives and governor’s office; the House passed the bill March 23.
“This is a serious student issue that needs support to prevent it from happening,” Smikle said. “We are lobbying at the Senate on April 18 at 4:15.”
International students and dependents contributed $625.8 million to Florida’s economy through tuition, fees, and living expenses in 2004-2005, according to the Association of International Educators. FAMU has over 200 international students who will be affected by this new bill.
The bill prohibits any Florida public university or community college from providing any student holding an F-1 or M-1 visa with financial assistance from state funds appropriated directly or indirectly to the institution or tuition fee revenues generated by Florida residents.
“It is unfortunate that the students I feel sacrifice the most to be here get the least consideration,” said Brian Perry, 21, a biology student. “We often take the opportunity of education for granted. There are people who would give their all, literally, to be in our seats.”
Smikle pointed out a specific part of the bill that will raise controversy in the Senate. It reads: “Both the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article 1, section 2 of the Florida Constitution guarantee equal protection of the laws to ‘persons,’ not only to citizens. This bill may raise constitutional concerns under these provisions.”
This section should make it easier for the International Student Association to fight against the bill.
Any other students interested in helping make a difference and also fight against the bill are welcome to come to the action meeting Thursday at 5 p.m. in the Perry Paige Auditorium.
As Smikle explained the situation to the student senate, senators continued to inquire more about what was happening with the bill.
“I think he’s bringing a very serious issue to the ears of the students,” said Sen. Osadebamwen Aihie, 19, a business administration student from Miami. “It is a problem that should definitely be looked at and solved.”
Janell Simpson, 19, a freshman business administration student at Florida International University.
“I was appalled to find this out, especially with us having so many international students,” Simpson said.
Simpson, who lived in Kingston, Jamaica until he was in the ninth grade, is very passionate about issues concerning international students.
“We are having a meeting on Wednesday, April 5th where we will be discussing this more and making our students more aware.”
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