GPSF President Ryan Collins and Special Advisor for International Student Affairs Shiwei Fang met with Graduate School Dean Barbour regarding the challenges in employing international graduate students who could not enter the US prior to the fall semester. A summary of these discussions is below:
The decision about how to employ international students, who are overseas and cannot enter the US due to various reasons related to the pandemic, as RAs/TAs is the result of months of discussion between the offices related to finance, research, graduate school, and provost.
The issues are very complicated:
· Taxation — Tax vary from country to country and even province/state to province/state. There are laws and rules that holds the University responsible to be correct with the tax, which is a huge burden to the school.
· Export Control — Federal government rules regulate what information those outside the country have access to inside the country. These are evaluated for national security threats, etc.
· Payroll — UNC’s payroll system is not set up to pay people outside the country who don’t have a bank account in the US, this is especially relevant to the incoming students.
Overall, the university determined it was best to approach the issue on a case by case situation and set-up an exception request process. Through this process all but one of the about 12 submitted requests have been approved by the provost. All were non-service appointments (meaning cover only tuition and fees). All were non-service appointments, and some covered both stipend and tuition/ fees.
Since then, UNC has contracted with a professional employer organization (PEO), which is a third-party company that will take on many of the liabilities and risks of paying a student outside of the US. Essentially, they pay the students and handle all the taxes/payroll issues. However, this service is very expensive which will be the burden of departments/advisors who are providing the funding. We hope we don’t need to deal with these issues in the future.
The College of Arts & Sciences decided they could not accept this risk and financial burden, hence why they prohibited any exceptions.
Graduate school acknowledges that there were communications between the school and students but want to improve that communication and become more effective.