Program cut would send international students home

From the campus of her high school in India, Manisha Ganesh could look out over fields of tea growing at 5,000 feet above sea level. If the drab gray clouds hanging over Broadway for most of the Portland year are a comedown, she’s not saying.

“I’m living my dream – living here in the United States and studying at an American university,” said Ganesh. “I know there are 900 students outside one embassy in India waiting to get a visa.”

This dream, however, may be taken away from Ganesh and the 25 other students who participate in the International Cultural Service Program (ICSP).

Under the program, international students pay only half the out-of-state tuition. In exchange for their pledge to volunteer 80 hours of time toward sharing their cultures and traditions with the larger community, the state of Oregon pays for the other half of their tuition.

In an e-mail to the participating students, Christina Luther, assistant director of International Education Services, warned that this money could be taken away by a proposal to cut $30 million in programmatic fee remissions from the Oregon University System budget.

The students, who do not have visas that allow them to work off-campus, will face enormous hurdles if the fee remissions that support them are cut.

Of the 26 students, only five of their families make more money than the non-discounted tuition costs, Luther told a public hearing over the Budget and Priorities Committee.

For Ganesh, who speaks five languages and is on the dean’s list, the decision of what to do if her tuition discount is cut substantially is fairly clear. “It would mean I’m going to fly back home, for sure,” she said.

The idea of the program getting slashed is “scary, but I don’t think I’m going to panic, simply because I truly believe the ICSP is an important program,” Ganesh said. “It’s helping a lot of students out here.” While Ganesh is referring to international PSU students, the same could be said of the 300 elementary students at the Bilquest elementary that Ganesh and several other ICSP students spoke to several months ago.

Also benefiting are the Indian students Ganesh has assisted by founding the Indian Student Mentor Program, which helps Indian students find housing and make social connections in Portland without any university support.

Regardless, if Ganesh is nervous – and she is – she hardly has time for it. As ASPSU multicultural affairs director, she’s already onto her next project – working on a campaign for a major in Chicano studies.