Yanjie Liu, a University of Texas at Dallas computer science senior from Nanchang, China, had big plans this spring and summer. He was preparing for an internship that would have transitioned after graduation into a full-time job.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic changed everything. The internship was rescinded, as was the job opportunity. Liu scrambled to make new plans.
“Since I didn’t get the job offer, where I would have a source of income, I decided to pursue a master’s degree,” he said. “I’m now getting help from my parents for tuition and living expenses.”
Liu is among a growing number of international students whose job opportunities were lost in the pandemic, resulting in changed plans for some and financial duress for others.
According to the University’s International Student Services Office (ISSO) there are at least 300 international students who — because of the current economic situation — are in difficult financial situations and could end up without adequate housing or food.
It’s those international students that worry Sanjeeb Samanta BS’94, MS’95, a UT Dallas alumnus who traveled from another country for his own education.
Samanta, who is now employed at Texas Instruments Inc., understands their difficulties. He worked with the ISSO and the Office of Development and Alumni Relations to set up the International Student Emergency Fund to support international students during this time.
“If you’re an international student, you don’t have a local family or a support structure around to lean on in a situation like this,” he said. “I know that when I was a student at UTD, we planned our budgets literally down to the dollar. What these students are facing is a real problem.”
Samanta has been reaching out to the public, particularly UT Dallas alumni, to encourage donating to the fund.
“If you’re an international student, you don’t have a local family or a support structure around to lean on in a situation like this. I know that when I was a student at UTD, we planned our budgets literally down to the dollar. What these students are facing is a real problem.”
Dr. Juan González, dean of graduate education, said the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a number of local employers to cancel internships and job opportunities. Approximately 30 international students had offers that were withdrawn.
“In addition to losing out on the opportunity to get practical work experience in their fields, many international students, like their American counterparts, were counting on the income to pay for their living expenses during the summer,” González said.
International students also have access to the Student Emergency Financial Assistance Program, which UT Dallas established to help students affected by the pandemic. They are not, however, eligible for money allocated by the U.S. government for university students through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which Congress passed in March.
UT Dallas is one of the most popular U.S. destinations for international students. With more than 9,000 students enrolled from outside the U.S., the University has the 12th-highest number of international students in the country among doctorate-granting institutions.
“These students become part of our University’s fabric, they contribute to our mission, and many of them stay and become taxpayers and their kids also come to UT Dallas,” González said. “I’m a big believer that the international students who come here contribute much more than they get out of their education.”
For students in need of financial assistance, there are a number of University emergency aid resources available.
ABOUT THE UT DALLAS COMPUTER SCIENCE DEPARTMENT
The UT Dallas Computer Science program is one of the largest Computer Science departments in the United States with over 3,315 bachelors-degree students, more than 1,110 master’s students, 165 Ph.D. students, 52 tenure-track faculty members, and 44 full-time senior lecturers, as of Fall 2019. With The University of Texas at Dallas’ unique history of starting as a graduate institution first, the CS Department is built on a legacy of valuing innovative research and providing advanced training for software engineers and computer scientists.