International students call on college to reduce tuition fees

Concerns grow as online classes continue


Dung Tran, Times Staff

California schools closed in March because of the pandemic and all classrooms switched to online learning. Some international students had to return to their home countries to study online to reduce their living expenses.

International students paying regular in-class tuition for remote teaching in the pandemic want a refund.

“The current tuition fees are appropriate in case of taking in-person classes,” said Hoang Le, 23, accounting major. “However, for online classes, I hope that the school reduces the tuition fees for international students who take classes in their home country because they don’t have to receive any other school benefits.”

Le, who went back to Vietnam because of the Covid-19, is taking online classes and pays full tuition.

“I feel very convenient because I don’t have to worry about arranging issues such as room renting and meals,” Le said. “The most significant inconvenience is due to the time zone difference between Vietnam and the United States. I must attend SJCC online classes during the daytime in the U.S. that’s night time in Vietnam.”

Le said he has to study from midnight until 2:45 a.m. and goes to bed during the daytime in Vietnam.

“I feel both positive and negative impacts when taking online classes,” said Xuan Nguyen, 30, a senior international student at SJCC, who is majoring in media arts. “I feel convenient with most online classes; however, I do not like how some teachers give us a lot of homework more than usual. They expect us to understand all they teach. Mostly, they don’t provide enough time for the tests.”

Nguyen said that limited time for tests is hard for international students who have English as their second language.
Nguyen said his life is now depressing. Not hanging out with friends, staying home, walking around the room and just doing homework are stressful, although he said he feels better now.

Nguyen also referred to problems with visa procedures that international students faced a few months ago. The U.S. administration’s regulation temporarily halted extending visas for international students, though the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services quickly canceled this administrative ordinance.

“I think they tried to assist us with the extension, but the procedures are now much more complicated than before,” Nguyen said.

Nguyen said the school wanted to assist international students, but it was quite confused by the new rules, and it didn’t know what to do until the rules were updated.

“As an international student, I found it difficult to study online,” said Vy Pham, 26, a former SJCC student, and a senior public health student at San Jose State University. “First, I do not feel comfortable opening my webcam during class. Second, sometimes professors give us a workload more than usual.”

Pham is also concerned about teacher-student contact.

“It is too hard for me to reach my professors via email,” Pham said. “They usually take more than 12 hours to respond to our emails, while we could ask them directly if we were having in-person classes.”

Pham said completing her class work without meeting in-person is too difficult.

“I have taken a lab this semester, and it is not easy for me to practice all of the materials by myself,” Pham said.

Performing group projects online is another concern.

“I have some group projects assigned for the entire semester,” Pham said. “Due to the pandemic, we cannot meet our group-mates. Not being able to talk to group-mates delays the group projects.”

Pham said online classes are beneficial to her in some ways: Her schedule is more flexible, she does not need to be worried about traffic every day, which has improved her independence.

She said during this time, online education is the best way for students to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and protect their families and themselves, especially in Santa Clara County, where the cases are dramatically increasing.
Pham shared some of her experiences on overcoming stress while learning online.

“I know that many students deal with a lot of stress and do not know how to manage their workload and time for online classes,” Pham said. “We have been suffering from a lot of emotional and mental health problems since Covid-19 occurred. I think that students should practice some of the methods of time-management skills such as Pomodoro, writing all important dates to their calendar and getting ahead of all the designations.”

Pham said for international students, tuition is always the top issue.

“We are entirely dependent on the support from our families. In today’s online learning conditions, students cannot use the school’s convenient services such as the gym or library,” Pham said. “It would be great if the school could reduce international students’ fees so that they have a chance to continue studying in the United States.”