Samuel Larreal | Contributing Writer
The Student Government Committee for International Students launched a petition in late September demanding the Department of Housing and Residential Experience increase access to on-campus housing for international students.
“FIU has decided to prioritize incoming freshmen when it comes to housing, ” Housing Senator Rhea Watkins said to PantherNOW. Due to a recent surge in local freshmen, FIU Housing did not provide enough housing for senior international students, Watkins said.
Barred from working legally in the U.S. or having access to a credit score, international students find it hard to find off-campus housing, Watkins said.
Watkins met with FIU Housing and Residential Experience Senior Director Andrew Naylor on Sept. 26. to discuss increasing on-campus housing availability for international students.
Housing administration, Watkins says, is aware of the “housing discrepancies” that international students face and is working to improve the on-campus housing accessibility.
“Housing is aware of the problems that international students are facing as a result of the large incoming wave of freshmen,” Watkins said. “They have already begun revising the system and will implement changes that would favor international students for the upcoming semester.”
FIU Housing and Residential Experience did not immediately respond for an interview with PantherNOW.
There are more than 3,500 international undergrad students currently enrolled at FIU, according to the Office of International Student & Scholar Services.
Florida International University, Senator of the Honors College Anish Sharma said, has not done enough to secure housing for international students who face unique financial and logistical hardships to ensure they can continue their studies at FIU.
“Many of the international students who decided to stay on campus this year. Were placed on a waitlist. Even as the fall semester was just about to begin. They continued to remain on the waitlist,” Sharma said.
“The irony is,” Sharma said, “that moments after they were able to find a place off-campus, they received a notification that they were now eligible for staying on campus.”
This issue was common during the start of the semester, according to Sharma, and at least ten other students had gone through a similar situation, Sharma told PantherNOW.
“It is very difficult to find housing off campus and it is very expensive too,” said Muhammed Milik, sophomore year computer science major from Pakistan. “It would be a good idea to prioritize international students. FIU should provide cheaper housing for international students too, it would help us manage our budget, because it is so expensive to live in Miami.”
“Finding housing was not that hard for me because I am finishing my sophomore year, but it is not like that for everyone,” Milik said. Many of his friends, he says, who are in their junior and sophomore years could not get on-campus housing due to long waiting times and limited availability and have had to find housing elsewhere.
Senators Watkins and Sharma raised some possible solutions to make finding on-campus housing easier for international students, including requesting a quota for international students housing or giving housing priority to junior and senior international students.
Still, the committee has not yet submitted any legislation on the matter and is still unclear what regulations or deals SGA could reach to ensure housing for a broader selection of students.