IPO plans to purchase van for student transport

IPO plans to purchase van for student transport
Umaima Koch, operations coordinator of international programs, works at her desk in the IPO. Photo by Ryleigh Tupper.

The International Programs Office is set to purchase a 12-passenger van to use for group events and orientation transport by June 2023.

The IPO received approval from the provost’s office but is still awaiting confirmation from the business office. The estimated $70,000 van purchase will be funded by the IPO and the Augustana Student Association.

“We still have funds to raise,” Ben Iverson, director for international programs and enrollment, said. “However, in addition to the contributions made by ASA, the IPO has raised more than $25,000 for the down payment. The other barriers are actually finding a van, but several local dealerships are looking on our behalf.”

In addition to the funds already raised, the IPO plans to secure a 5-year, $50,000 loan to cover the remaining purchase costs. Loan repayment will be $1,000 per month or $12,000 per year.

Prior to the van purchase, the IPO has had to rely on personal vehicles and rentals for transportation.

“As an international student and ACE ambassador, I’ve seen firsthand how transportation during the orientation and Sioux Falls events could be challenging,” junior Vedant Thakkar, an ASA senator, said. “It’s kind of discouraging to see that the staff has to put out their personal vehicles to give us transportation, so I think it’s a step in the right direction.”

According to the proposal from the IPO, the office spends $7,000 annually on van rentals and other transportation fees. That budget will be rerouted toward van loan repayments instead.

As part of the purchase, the IPO will also increase the international student enrollment deposit from $550 to $600 per student. According to the proposal, assuming Augustana enrolls an average of 100 international students per year, $5,000 will be put toward the loan repayment.

ASA will also be continuously funding the van.

“ASA has committed to fund $2,250 per semester, starting spring of ‘23 until fall of ‘27 for this van,” Thakkar said.

According to the ASA by-laws, this allocation will cease if the van is paid off before fall 2027 or if group transport of students by the IPO or other campus organizations does not remain the primary function of the van.

In ASA Senate Resolution 1032, ASA canceled a campus-wide subscription of U.S.A. Today which costs $375 per month or $4,500 per year. As part of the resolution, that money will be allocated to the IPO to use as it sees fit. According to Thakkar, groups like the Mirror, Edda and Mikkelsen Library were consulted before the subscription was officially canceled.

ASA President Sara Alhasnawi said ASA’s allocation will be used for repayment of the loan..

“Our money is going to help them pay the loan back as quickly as possible, so they’d be able to make monthly payments higher than $1,000,” Alhasnawi said.

Finally, the IPO will set up an account specifically for van maintenance, repair and other associated expenses. To fund this account, the IPO wants to increase enrollment of customized international programs — like the Norwegian Nursing Exchange Program — from around 20 students to 50. These programs charge $150 per student, which means each program could bring in $7,500 to finance the maintenance and repair account.

The IPO is planning to have specific guidelines about who can operate the van. According to the proposal, only IPO staff and students who have completed annual van safety training will be able to drive the van within the Sioux Falls Metro Area. Additionally, all travel must be approved by the IPO director.

“We have a program where we take international students anywhere between one and two times a month to do cultural events off-campus,” Heather Edmunds Reed, associate director of international programs, said. “It’s really important for international students to get off campus and realize that there’s a community outside of Augustana. They are here for an American experience, and transportation is always an issue with that.”

Reed said the van will be helpful in organizing transportation for these events, which include bowling, zoo visits and performances around Sioux Falls.

“Obviously, the Lyft program has been a substantial help, but it’s just not enough in many cases,” Reed said.

Alhasnawi said the van is meant to alleviate some of the financial hardship on ASA’s Lyft program.

“Considering that our Lyft passes are being used at a very high amount by international students, and we are spending a lot on it, we need other methods of transportation to help,” Alhasnawi said.

Thakkar said that the purchase of the IPO van, however, is not meant to replace the Lyft program.

“The Lyft program and the van are two separate entities,” Thakkar said. “They are not at all related.”