GW defers tuition for Asian students

A newly revised University payment schedule will grant GW students affected by the ongoing economic crisis in Pacific Rim nations a five-month grace period to pay their spring tuition bills.

The new plan will give Asian students until Aug. 1 to pay their spring bills – an extension of the original March 1 deadline proposed in January.

Students from Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Taiwan and the Philippines are eligible for the extension. Almost 200 of the 941 affected students at GW have signed up for the new payment plan, according to a University press release.

During the past six months, nations in the Pacific Rim have faced dramatic currency devaluation – a situation that has put GW’s Asian community in financial straits as tuition bills pile up.

Deferment and employment options were presented by the University earlier this semester, but the new plan is the most comprehensive solution offered so far.

“The University’s response to the Asian economic crisis has been positive and well-received,” said Mike Freedman, GW’s director of public affairs. “We are going to do everything within reason to help these students.”

The decision to extend the payment plan came as University officials realized the economic crisis would not end by March 4, Freedman said.

But program administrators said they will monitor the situation in Asia closely for the next several months.

“This may not be the final resolution,” Freedman said. “But we are trying to be as fair as we can.

“The University has to strike a balance between those Asian students with extra needs and its responsibility to the general student population,” he said. “We have be fair to other GW students who are also struggling to pay their bills.”

For some Asian students the extension plan does not provide a complete solution, since students with outstanding tuition bills from previous semesters will not be able to register for fall 1998 classes.

Students are hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst, said Stephen L. Bennett, assistant director of the International Services Office.

“Students are hoping that there’s going to be some economic stabilization over the summer,” Bennett said. “If the (International Monetary Fund) reforms kick in it might be enough to stabilize the exchange rates.”

International economic and political analysts remain uncertain about the length of the Asian crisis.

“The economic crisis is affecting students very harshly,” said GW international affairs Professor Ronald Palmer. “In the case of students from Malaysia, the currency has been devalued to the point where everything is twice as expensive. Indonesians have seen their currency decrease by 80 percent.”

“As institutions you want to provide as much assistance as possible,” Bennett said. “But for the duration of the problem it may be hard.”

It may take another two to three years before the Pacific Rim nations will be on the path to economic growth, Palmer said.

“No one knows,” Palmer said. “Southeast Asia will recover economically, but the question is whether it will happen in the short term, the middle term or the long term.”

Freedman said the University cannot help students indefinitely, but he said more long-range options still are being considered.

The University also is helping students secure bank loans in their home countries.

For the first time, GW has opened the federal work-study program to international students. Fifty-one international students hold federal work-study jobs through GW.

In addition, a monthly tuition payment plan previously available to domestic GW students now is being offered to international students as well, Freedman said.

Special deferred payment arrangements will allow students to enroll in summer session courses. However, the students still will be required to pay fees by the deadline since GW does not offer a summer payment plan.

During this time of economic uncertainty, freshmen and sophomores are bearing the brunt of economic tailspin because they have more of years of education to finish. But with graduation close at hand, upperclassmen and graduate students have no choice but to ride out the financial hardship, Bennett said.

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