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Questioning the 'full time' graduate student policies

Published: Monday, February 3, 2014

Updated: Monday, February 3, 2014 23:02

In a sparsely attended forum on student fees, one commenter questioned the University of Connecticut’s graduate school policy of requiring international students to be enrolled in three credits to be considered “full time” and stay compliant with their visas.

Josef Ma, a Ph.D. candidate in sociology, told the Student Fee Advisory Committee that he felt graduate students are put at a disadvantage by being required to take three credits and aren’t given the necessary flexibility to work a job or spend time doing research.

“We want to find a good job and get things published. In social sciences it takes more years to get things published,” he said. “I could graduate this year, but it would mean I wouldn’t have enough time to do my own research.”

But Kent Holsinger, the graduate school dean, said requiring international graduate students to be enrolled full time is not a UConn policy. Federal law stipulates foreign students must be enrolled full time in order to retain their visa.

Specifically how many credits a student must be enrolled in to be deemed “full time” is up to the university.

“I think that the graduate school would be uncomfortable deeming anyone full time who was taking less than three credits,” Holsinger said. “But it’s something we can look in to.”

Ma said international Ph.D. students are typically granted six to seven years to complete their degrees, but–in his fourth year–he has already completed the necessary course requirements. Now, he said, he wants to spend time researching and trying to get articles published. 

Instead, Ma said he took on a job as a teaching assistant in order to stay compliant with his I-20 student visa.

Holsinger said the complaint is one that he has heard before, but feels the federal mandate leaves little room to change university policy.

The forum was part of a series of public forums hosted to receive comment about the fees that students and faculty must pay the university. Currently, undergraduate students pay about $2,766 in fees. A public hearing about the fees for the school year beginning in fall of 2015 will take place on Feb. 11 in room 331 of the Student Union. Hearings will begin at 11:30 a.m.

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