Steep Price to Pay

By Rita Berríos Riquelme/ Contributor

The cost to go to college for international students is insanely expensive. International students more than five times more per unit than California residents attending the same classes and walking through the same buildings.

At the same time, international students are not allowed to legally work while in the country.

F1 visa holders can only work legally in the country under extreme circumstances, which vary from a complete natural disaster to the death of the person sponsoring you (usually your parents).

Some international students might come to this country with the idea that after a year of struggle or sacrifice, they will be able to work legally, which was my experience.

Before applying for a student visa and making the decision to leave my family and country, I read on the U.S. embassy website in Chile that a F1 visa holder would be able to work legally in the country after a year of attending school.

After that first year of school, I talked to my counselor about starting to work legally in the country, an idea which he stopped, explaining the extreme circumstances necessary to make that possible.

He also told me about working on campus, where the pay is not enough to live in San Francisco – $10.74 per hour because state minimum wage applies to City College. Students taking 12 units of classes know how much time is taken out of our lives. Additional work hours to make ends meet makes life tough.

Being an international student is not synonymous with wealth.

The reality for most international students is they cannot really afford school, however, they leave their countries with the help and support of their struggling families back home.

I know this because I have met other international students with whom I share a similar story.

If you can imagine leaving everything behind with only one purpose, which is to pursue an academic degree, you might infer that is not an easy or quick decision.

Where are you going to live, what are you going to eat every day, where will you get your books or how are you going to manage to buy them, what if you get sick? Those questions aren’t scary when you visualize the future after accomplishing your goal obtaining a degree.

On top of the cost of paying insanely high tuition and other daily expenses in San Francisco, international students are required to purchase health insurance through City College, which is also expensive. In fact, it costs more than half of a three-unit class.


“There is no real reason for F1 visa holders to be paying such high tuition fees.”

— Rita Berríos Riquelme


I understand that this might be a way to make sure that a student will be taken care of if they become sick or are in an accident, but the truth is that international students are told not to visit a doctor unless they are truly physically suffering and for minor illness or injury they should go to the Student Health Center. We can’t just go to see a doctor for a checkup. We must have a major reason to see a doctor.

I feel all the hurdles are worth the sacrifice being made to pursue a degree in this country, and everything one day will pay off. However, I do feel that there is no real reason for F1 visa holders to be paying such high tuition fees. They are not taking money from the government and they are not allowed to work legally.

The high tuition fees are insanely expensive and should not prevent us from living in such a diverse and inclusive community as San Francisco.

Comments are closed.