Kevin Joseph, an international graduate student at UCF, was recently informed of a program titled Florida Caribbean Institute (FCI), which provides out-of-state tuition waivers to pay in-state tuition to eligible students from the Caribbean.
This notification process came in his last year of school from a student who was in the program, instead of from a university official during his enrollment period.
Joseph said there were ample opportunities for university officials to inform him of this program before he officially became a graduate civil engineering student, since he said his admissions process was not short.
“My initial, initial acceptance, coming into UCF, going into international orientation day, I didn’t really get any information [on the program],” Joseph said.
Information about the program is not stated explicitly on UCF's website or any other Florida university website. The sites only have a hyperlink that says Florida Caribbean Institute, which directs an individual to FIU's website. This is where the information about the program is stated.
This information would have informed Joseph that FCI is a part of the Linkage Institute founded by the Florida Legislature. The institute aims to promote and expand commercial, cultural and educational linkages between Florida and the Caribbean.
For students to be eligible to receive the out-of-state tuition waiver to pay in-state tuition, they must be a citizen of one of the 14 countries the website lists and be studying in Florida with a student visa. The student must also be committed to return to their country after completing their studies for a length of time equal to their exemption period.
Joseph explained how he would have been a perfect candidate for the program since he is a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago, one of the 14 countries FCI has listed, and would not have minded returning to his country.
“I could have saved a lot of money,” Joseph said.
For an out-of-state graduate student taking nine credit hours, like Joseph, the tuition and fees for the fall 2017 semester is $10,746. For an in-state graduate student taking nine credit hours, the rate for tuition and fees for fall 2017 is nearly $3,321, as calculated on the UCF student account services site.
This means Joseph could have saved nearly $7,000 in a single semester.
Joseph said knowing about this program before he came to UCF would have saved him time from searching the UCF website for possible financial aid.
Joseph also said knowing Melkin Fructuoso, a classmate of his in the engineering major and recipient of the program, sooner, would have been helpful. Fructuoso is the student who alerted Joseph of the program.
Fructuoso noted that he found out about the program while searching the internet. He also stated he was not notified of the program from a university official either.
However, Mark Hartman, director of the Florida-Canada Linkage Institute and Florida-Eastern Europe Linkage Institute, who is located at UCF, said he notifies students from countries who could be eligible for the Canada and Eastern European program when they enroll at UCF. He also said since he notifies his students, students eligible for FCI should get notification from someone.
Head of the FCI program is Viroselie Caviedes, who works at the FIU campus in Miami. Caviedes said she notifies students who come to her campus of their eligibility for the program, but is not certain of the process at other Florida institutions.
“I cannot speak on behalf of every Florida university or college because they have their own recruiting process, but they are aware,” Caviedes said.
Joseph said he hopes that in the future students eligible for the program will be notified. He said he also hopes they will not have to go through the process of looking at past fee invoices for tuition, and thinking about how much money they could have saved.