STEM Students and the OPT Program at Risk
April 19th, 2016 by Lette Berhe

stem and optIn August 2015, the US federal court ruled against the validity of  the US Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) 2008 regulation update for the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program. However, the court gave the DHS until February 10,  2016,  to begin the implementation of necessary changes. In January 2016, the court extended the date for implementation until May 10, 2016. What does this really mean for internationals students? Let’s break it down.

What is Optional Practical Training?
Optional Practical Training, or OPT as it is commonly referred to, is a program that was created to provide international students with the opportunity to extend their visas to gain 1 year of US work experience in a professional setting that is directly related to their field of study. This work experience can be achieved either while they are completing their studies or post graduation. Read the rest of this entry »


The Price of Oil on Nigerian Students
March 23rd, 2016 by Lette Berhe

nigeriaRecently, many people around the world have been celebrating and appreciating the drop in oil prices. For many, their day-to-day consists of filling a car full of gasoline, which until recently was proving to be quite expensive. Although lower gas prices benefit the general public, it is having some very negative consequences on the Nigerian state and its international students around the world.

Like many countries, Nigeria’s government and private industry have made it one of their priorities to foster their citizens’ access to international education. About 40% of Nigerian students who are abroad receive some type of funding from a public or private entity in their home country. How is this related to Nigeria, you ask?

Nigeria is one of the world’s oil-rich countries, with about 70 to 80% of its wealth coming from the oil and gas industry. So falling prices is taking a big hit on the economic stability of the country. Nigerian students who are abroad are also feeling the repercussions. Most students who receive either public or private funding are promised a living stipend which can include money to cover the cost of housing, food, transportation, etc. However, since the latter part of 2015 there have been accounts of Nigerian students currently studying abroad who have not received any of the promised aid for tuition and living expenses. In Canada, a report came out stating that about 240 Nigerian students in 14 different universities had been left without aid from the RSSDA Scholarship Program for more than 11 months and were accumulating debt. The RSSDA is a an organization run and owned by the Rivers State in Nigeria, who later admitted to owing Canadian universities a total of about $2.5 million.

With this debt growing by the minute, Nigerian students who have found themselves in a very difficult situation. Many of them were promised aid and their families can not support the cost of their education abroad. Due to this, many students are being asked by the Nigerian industries to return to complete their education in Nigerian universities.


International Students Must File Taxes – Due April 18th!
March 11th, 2016 by Lette Berhe

taxTax season has already begun and many international students are not aware that they must file a US tax return as well – even if they’ve never earned any money in the US.  All students must file their US taxes on or before April 18, 2016. For most international students, this process will be easy and straightforward. Read on to see what you need to submit, as well as helpful resources in case you need assistance

Does Everyone Need to File?
As part of your visa requirements all international students are required to file taxes. The forms you will need to submit are dependent on whether you have made any income or not.

Regardless of whether you’ve earned income or not, all international students and their dependents must file Form 8843. If you are in the US with dependents, this form must be filed by your dependents independently (which includes a separate envelope!).

What is Eligible for Taxation?
If, as an international student, you have been receiving an income in the US, then you will need to pay taxes on it. Below are 3 common sources of income for international students:

  1. Wages from a job in the United States (on-campus, off-campus, OPT job)
  2. A scholarship from an American organization
  3. Interest made from an American bank account

For a complete list of what could be considered a potential income source be sure to check the IRS website. If you have received income in the last calendar year, you will also need to file Form 1040NR-EZ.

For more in-depth information regarding how to file your taxes and what forms you’ll need to submit, be sure to read the Student Tax Return page from InternationalStudent.com.


US Citizens May Be Eligible for Student Tax Credit
February 23rd, 2016 by Lette Berhe

tax timeThe 2016 tax season officially opened on January 19. No one looks forward to doing their taxes, but with the new American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) it might be worth taking some time to file. This tax credit was first available in 2009; and, in 2012 was extended to continue until 2017. So you may still be eligible! What does eligibility mean exactly? It means that you may be able to receive a partially refundable tax credit of up to $2,500 on your educational costs.

What is the American Opportunity Tax Credit?

The AOTC is a tax credit that was started by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. In essence, it is a way to lift the burden of educational costs on families and individuals. There are two different tax credits which are available, the American opportunity credit and the lifetime learning credit. Now what’s the difference?

  1. American Opportunity Credit: This credit allows for a 40% refund and you are only eligible if you are in the first 4 years of post-secondary education.
  2. Lifetime Learning Credit: If you claim this credit you are not eligible to receive a refund of any kind, however it helps in limiting the amount of tax you will be asked to pay on your taxable income.  In addition, this credit is not limited to the first 4 years, but can be claimed for any type of post-secondary education and/or courses taken to improve job skills.

Read the rest of this entry »


3 Ways to Save Money on Books
February 11th, 2016 by Lette Berhe

school booksMost of you have started or will be starting a new semester. At the start of each new semester, is when students find themselves spending the most money. On what, you ask? A new course load means new classes and new classes mean lots of new books. It´s that time of the year where you need to go through your class syllabi and add up how much you´ll be spending on books. Every year it seems that textbook prices keep on rising, but at the same time the opportunities to save money on books are constantly growing as well. Below are 3 ways to save money on textbooks, which you can then use to enjoy  your weekends! Read the rest of this entry »


A 2016 Budget to Start the Year With Dollar Bills!
January 4th, 2016 by Lette Berhe

2016Now that many of you have experienced your first semester, or first few quarters, as an international student you probably have already established your routine. Although we all try our hardest to manage our finances, it is an ongoing process and there is always room for improvement. Now that you have figured out what works for you, it might be a good idea to create a new budget going into 2016, to save some dollars and cents where possible. Here are some tips on where to begin making some financial changes. Read the rest of this entry »


Top 5 Ways International Students Fund Their US Education
December 3rd, 2015 by Lette Berhe

On November 16th, the Institute of International Education published its 2015 Open Doors Report. The Open Doors Report is sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State and provides an in-depth look into the changing trends of international students who study in the U.S. and of American students who study abroad. This year’s report showed that in the 2014/2015 academic year, the number of international students attending U.S. universities reached a record high of 974,926- nearly 1 million students. This is a 10% increase, which is the highest growth rate in 35 years. The top 3 countries of origin, in order, were China, India, and South Korea. Students from these three countries made up more than 50% of all international students in the U.S. In addition to the above mentioned, there was significant growth in the number of international students coming from Brazil, Kuwait, and Nigeria. With all these growing numbers the real question is, how exactly do they fund their U.S. programs? Below are the top 5 ways internationals students funded their international education in the U.S.

  1. Personal and Family
    The Open Doors Report shows that in the 2014/2015 academic year personal and family finances were the primary source of funding for about 65% of international students. What does this mean exactly? This includes any personal savings you or your parents may have that are then used towards your higher education. Personal loans could also fall under this category, being that once you have received the loan it is part of your personal finances. It is always best to plan ahead and save as much money as you can, so that if you need to take out a loan it is the lowest amount possible. For more information on how to go about budgeting and saving click here!
  2. U.S. College and University
    The second most utilized source of funding came from U.S. colleges and universities. This year’s report shows that the following eight institutions were hosts to more than 10,000 international students: New York University, University of Southern California, Columbia University, Arizona State University, University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign, Northeastern University, Purdue University – West Lafayette, and University of California – Los Angeles. With such high numbers of incoming students, it is not a coincidence. There are many universities that promote the influx of international students and offer financial aid through scholarships or grants. Once you decide to study abroad it is important to do your research about what the different universities can offer you.
  3. Foreign Government and University
    It is no coincidence that countries such as Kuwait and Brazil have had an incredible increase in the number of students in the U.S. The government of these two countries have been working hard to provide opportunities for their citizens to have access to an international education. In Kuwait the Ministry of Higher Education sponsors undergraduate and graduate students who wish to pursue programs abroad and in Brazil the government offers the Brazil Scientific Mobility Program for students in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields. With each new year more and more government programs are being created to promote international education.
  4. Current Employment
    Although it is possible to find and receive financial aid, sometimes it is not enough and a part-time job can help with any unexpected costs that may arise during your time abroad. Many international students are under the impression that they will not be able to work during their time in the U.S., but this is false. It is true, that your employment options may be limited, but it is possible. Take a look at our section on working in the U.S. for more information.
  5. Foreign Private Sponsor
    Before more and more government agencies were placing international education at the forefront, there were private businesses or organizations offering a bit of help to those interested in going abroad. Although a smaller percentage of students, one percent, made use of such sponsorships it is always good to be aware of your options to not miss out on any good opportunities.

Think you might need an international student loan? Check out our loan information page to see what we can offer you!


IIE´s Cuba Higher Education Initiative
November 30th, 2015 by Lette Berhe

cuba & usAs globalization continues, so does the opportunities for international and cultural exchange. In the past month of October, The Institute of International Education participated in a historical event which allowed representatives from 12 U.S. universities to travel to Cuba to learn more about its higher education system and to explore what opportunities may exist for future partnerships. The delegation, comprised of about 30 university representatives, was led by IIE´s President and CEO, Allan E. Goodman. Participating universities included Associated Colleges of the Midwest; Central Washington University; Indiana University; Lehman College, CUNY; Oberlin College; Rutgers University; SUNY New Paltz; University of Arizona; Montclair State University; University of Tampa; Virginia Commonwealth University; and West Texas A&M.

Although there have always been travel restrictions between the U.S. and Cuba, there have been opportunities for American students to participate in Cuban study abroad programs. According to the IIE´s Passport directory there are currently 25 Cuba programs available for students. IIE´s Open Doors Report demonstrated that during the 2014/2015 academic year about 1,845  students participated in for-credit study abroad programs in Cuba. Unfortunately, Cuban university students have not had the same opportunities. With political relations opening between the two countries, IIE now has a new initiative to foster partnerships between the U.S. higher education system and that of Cuba. This delegation´s trip is only one of many stepping stones that are being taken on behalf of IIE´s Cuba Higer Education Initiative .

The birth of this initiative comes after Secretary of State John Kerry attended the official reopening of the U.S. Embassy in Havana in August. During this visit Cuba´s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodrigues Parrilla addressed the mutual interest of both countries to open ¨new areas of dialogue¨ and Secretary Kerry stated that it was of great importance that as neighboring countries, the citizens of each have the opportunity to meet each other and learn more about each other
IIE´s Cuba Higher Education Initiative includes a six-month program with Cuba called the International Academic Partnership Program (IAPP). This program focuses on assisting participating universities in the development and planning process of creating relationship and partnerships with universities in Cuba. To facilitate the process the initiative has an advisory board comprised of members from all different backgrounds. This advisory board and its members are work with these universities throughout the six-months.

Be sure to stay tuned, because with the growth of initiatives, comes the creation of scholarship programs!

Already decided where you want to go? For ideas on how to pay for your study abroad program, check out our section on Funding Your Education Overseas!


Generation Study Abroad: What it Means for You
October 15th, 2015 by Lette Berhe

travelingOn October 1st, the Institute of International Education (IIE) announced that more than 600 partners have committed to the Generation Study Abroad Initiative and have pledged a total of $185 million.

Established by the Institute of International Education in 2014, Generation Study Abroad is a five-year initiative whose goal is to double the number of U.S. students who study abroad by the end of the decade. This initiative has brought together partners from K-12 organizations, U.S. universities and colleges, social networks, and international universities and organizations to address the biggest obstacles students face when deciding to study abroad: cost, curriculum, and culture.

In just one year, these partners have begun to make practical changes to address these issues by focusing on: Read the rest of this entry »


A US Bank Account: Make Your Life Easier
August 24th, 2015 by Lette Berhe

financial safteyOnce you have arrived to the US and begin settling into your new college environment, you may start to notice that most people do not carry around much cash. Almost everywhere, including parking meters, allow for the option of paying with a debit or credit card. For those international students who plan on staying a year or more, opening up a US bank account will make almost every aspect of your financial life a little bit easier.

Why Open Up an Account?

In the US, the norm has shifted from carrying a wallet full of bills to a wallet full of cards. However, having a bank account won’t just be convenient when it comes to your personal spending, but can be useful in paying for bills and cashing checks.

  • Rent & Utilities: Although most students live on campus their first year, many tend to move  off campus for their second. Off-campus housing means that you´ll be renting an apartment from a private owner that may have no affiliation with your university. Many off-campus residencies provide online portals for their tenants to be able to pay rent via the internet. Many gas and electric companies also utilize an online payment system. By having a bank account you’ll be able to make all of these payments quickly and easily.
  • Cashing Loan Checks: Whether you will be receiving extra money from financial aid or you will have leftover money from your student loan, you will most likely receive it in the form of a check. With an account open, it will make the process of cashing these checks easier and give you a safe and secure location to keep it stored away.
  • Getting Paid: For those of you who are planning to make some extra cash by working on campus, you will learn to love direct deposit. In the US most people receive two paychecks a month. With a bank account open you will be eligible to receive direct deposit, which means that rather than receiving your check then having to go into a bank to cash it, your money will go straight to your account on payday.

Read the rest of this entry »


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