My name is Emmylou. I'm an international student here in South Australia studying Master in Biotechnology (Biomedical Science) at the University of Adelaide. I am in the last semester of my study and will be finishing my studies by the end of June 2021.
The Outstanding Fee
I am trying to raise $16,278.00 for my outstanding tuition fee balance. Our tuition fee increased this year by $1,000 AUD. It was originally around $20,000 AUD per semester for international students but the university decided to proceed with its fee increase even with the pandemic. The total fee is now $21,492.00. I have a 15% discount so that would be $3,223.80 less. I was also able to save up some money from cleaning and babysitting so I was able to pay $1,990.20.
The university notified me that there will be consequences if I can't pay the fees before the census date. However, the census already passed. I called the International Student Support (ISS) to talk about my situation, but they said they can't really offer anything to me. The only option is to pay the fees before the semester ends or else my debt will be transferred to an external debt collector which will incur interest. I won't be able to get my official transcript as well and hence, won't be able to apply for the post-graduate visa so I can stay in Australia to work.
High Performing Student but No Scholarship
I also asked the university if they would offer me any scholarship as I have been receiving academic excellence awards throughout my studies. They said, however, that there are no scholarships for current students as they are only offered to incoming students. So even with a high GPA of 6.875 (Perfect GPA here in Australia is 7.00), I can't really get any grant for academic merit :(
My current situation
The outbreak of COVID-19 left me and my family in really tough situations. I lost my part-time job as a retail assistant in a Newsagency outlet in the city. It was a big loss for me as it helped me pay 1/3 of my fees before the pandemic. Meanwhile, my family in the Philippines also lost projects for their trucking business as the Philippines has now become the epicenter for COVID-19 in South-East Asia. After a year, the situation in the Philippines has become even worse, leaving both my parents and me with no income.
How am I surviving
Since becoming unemployed, I have been relying on grants to pay for my weekly rental fee which is $95. Good thing my landlord is really nice and does not really kick anyone out even if the balance gets more than a thousand dollars. For the food, I was lucky to be a recipient of fortnightly $50 food vouchers given by the Rosefield church near the dormitory we are living. So I buy ~$25 weekly grocery, cook in bulk and ration the food in ~14 lunchboxes so that it will last for a week (breakfast was no longer an option).
I sometimes babysit and clean on the weekends to help me pay for my rental fee and buy myself some snacks. It was hard for me to get another part-time job as they would always reject my application due to my availability being only on the weekends. Hence, I can only find babysitting and house cleaning as the only option. However, babysitting even cost me money as I would be staying after midnight which requires me to hire a cab to go home as there are no more buses during this time. During the mid and summer break, I volunteered at the local Salvos Store (Salvation Army) to increase my chance of getting employed but to no avail. :(
The only reason I was able to pay for my fees during the past year is that my parents borrowed money in the Philippines which has now been accumulating and leaving us even more in debt due to the high-interest rate. But they can't get bank loans anymore as they don't have any proof of income since their business has not been generating any income.
In less than three months, I will be finishing my studies. As I get closer to the end, I become more and more anxious as I am not sure if I would be able to get out of this situation. The biggest reason I can't find a job is due to my studies. I am currently doing a full-time research project with the Neurogenetics Research group at the University of Adelaide (https://www.adelaide.edu.au/robinson-research-institute/research/research-groups/neurogenetics) which will require me to produce and defend my thesis by the end of the semester. Due to this, I am required to be in the research lab from 9 am -5 pm from Monday to Friday. Sometimes, I would need to leave even later and come on weekends due to ongoing experiments. I love what I am currently researching on but it also caused me to the brink of homelessness.
I am currently working on CRISPR/dCas9 to activate silent genes of patients with Neurodevelopmental Disorders (NDDs) so we can better investigate the functional impact of suspected genetic variants on the function of the gene. The project was really exciting but it has proven difficult to successfully activate the genes on patient cell lines. In the case that we will be able to successfully get the CRISPR/dCas9 technology to work, we would be publishing a paper and I would be more than happy to share with you the results of our study.
My research supervisor offered me to be his Ph.D. student after my master as he told me I am a good student but I politely declined as I have mentioned to him that our family is in so much debt and we are only hoping to pay all of it by working after I finish studying. The total fees for my studies are more than ~$70,000 for the two years (https://www.adelaide.edu.au/degree-finder/mbib_mbibiom.html#df-acc-fees_scholarships).
I have always been very optimistic because every time that my family and I thought that I won't be able to pay the fees every semester, but someone would miraculously lend us money. But now that I almost at the end of my studies, I am starting to lose hope as we seem to have no other option. I am really sorry to share this burden with you but this is the only option left I can think of.
- Roselyn Callado
- Marvin Daileg
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