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Libya ends college funding for 2,000 U.S. students

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SPOKANE, Wash. » About 2,000 Libyan students who attend college in the U.S. will lose financial support after Libya lost access to about $30 billion in assets that were frozen by the United Nations and the U.S. as a result of the military conflict in that country.

Among the students is Abdalhamid Alkar, one of about 40 Libyan students at Washington State University in Pullman who will see their government support end on May 31 unless the situation changes.

"This is a big problem for all of us," Alkar said Friday. "We don’t have any way to support our living here."

Student visa requirements prohibit the students from working, and lack of support from their government means the students will be left without money for tuition and living expenses.

Alkar actually graduated in May in veterinary medicine but still needs support from the Libyan government while he waits several months for permission to get a job.

"I have no funds for that," Alkar said.

Various groups at Washington State University are trying to raise money to help the Libyan students, said Darin Watkins, a WSU spokesman.

A letter sent to Libyan-North American Scholarship Program students at WSU included a list of area social service organizations, including the state Department of Social and Health Services and a food bank.

"At this point of uncertainty, you must begin planning for the scholarship program discontinuation," WSU Provost Warwick M. Bayly wrote in the letter. "Unfortunately, WSU is not able to provide stipends, tuition scholarships, free or deferred rent, or health insurance to students and families who had previously received funding" through the Canadian Bureau for International Education.

Jennifer Humphries of the Canadian Bureau for International Education, which distributes the funds in the U.S. and Canada, said talks are under way that might lead to some of the frozen assets being released by the U.S. and Canadian governments so the students can get their expenses covered.

"Maybe the students will get to stay," she said Friday.

The CBIE sent a letter to its students last week warning that it was running out of funds.

"It is important for CBIE to prepare for a scenario in which we do not receive new funding by May 31 and therefore we are currently exploring ways to pay for June health insurance premiums and monthly living allowances,"’ the letter said.

In March, Libyan assets were frozen by the U.N., U.S. and Canada in an attempt to keep them from Gadhafi.

The Libyan-North American Scholarship Program is a joint collaboration between Libya, Canada and host universities in Canada and the United States.

Candace Chenoweth, director of the Office of International Students and Scholars at WSU, said university leaders are meeting with students to discuss legal options that would allow them to remain in the U.S., if the funding remains frozen.

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