Five international students received scholarships for 2019-2020 academic school year after a decade of having difficulties in getting access.
Alida So, Shirneal Handfield, Zainab Akambi, Briana Byrne and Ester Kere, each received scholarships. All five students are also athletes, which played into their eligibility for general scholarships.
“Many international students have become so frustrated with applying and never being selected that they stopped applying. I’m entering my 10th year of working with international students and this was the first time I had ever heard of these students being selected.” said Joline Keevy, one of the advisors of the International Students Association and assistant director of the International Education Center.
According to Keevy, general scholarships were off-limits to international students because the criteria set by the fund included limits on citizenship.
“If a scholarship has any ties to the US Federal Government, for example, there is almost always a stipulation that only US citizens can apply. Many others also add that as a stipulation to the criteria and it eliminates all students who come to SSU on student visas. Usually the application requirements says that you must be from a certain city or state, typically within Georgia. To date, we have not been able to secure a donor who would establish a scholarship for international students,” Keevy said.
One of the students, Briana Byrne, is from the twin island nation of Antigua and Barbuda. She is a senior forensic science major, and this is her first scholarship from Savannah State.
“When I was selected I was very happy, but also surprised because international students usually are not selected, so I was pleasantly surprise and happy about it because it will help me with exit the financial burden,” said Byrne.
According to Savannah State's website, out-of-state tuition at the university is more than $10,000 per school year.
Keevy said many people don’t realize the challenges international students face once they arrive on campus.
“Few people know that they do not qualify for financial aid," she said. "Besides the cash for tuition, and all the other costs associated with attending a university, they are severely limited in ways they can earn money while living in the U.S. because immigration only allows international students to work on campus and can work no more than 19 hours a week, most often at minimum wage.”
These limitations make it a challenge for many to do any more than pay their school fees and survive.
Some of the students are not able to afford to go home and spend years without visiting their families.
“It’s tough and anything we can do to support these students will certainly lessen burdens many face," Keevy said.
As the 2019-2020 president of the International Students Association, Byrne said she wants to start a scholarship fund.
“This is important for me because I understand how hard it is to get a scholarship here," she said. "As we are not eligible for most of the scholarships, we need to try do by ourselves."