Australian students hopes of attending prestigious directing course in New York shattered

– reported by Noni Garratt

A talented young Victorian’s dreams of attending a prestigious directing course in New York have been shattered due to extreme costs and complex visa requirements.

Zoe Hallwright, 21, of East Malvern recently got accepted into New York University. Specifically she got accepted into the Tisch School of Arts Drama program, which accepts 200-300 students per year. She also got accepted into the stage directing stream which accepts the very small number of only 8-12 students per year.

However, whilst Zoe was chosen out of thousands of people around the world, she cannot attend NYU due to the extreme cost of the course. It costs AU$50,00 per year.

There was a lengthy application process that started with an online application which involved in-depth details and discussion of my academic life, dreams for the future and past experiences through essays and short answer submissions.” Zoe explains.

After Zoe’s application was accepted, she flew all the way to New York just to attend the interview where she presented a monologue and a portfolio of a directing concept for a show of her choice.

Zoe Hallwright visiting New York for her interview

Zoe Hallwright visiting New York for her interview

This isn’t your everyday straightforward course where you are taught the basic skills but given no help within the actual industry. Students in the directing stream spend three days a week doing practical training in a professional, off-Broadway studio where famous composers such as Stephen Sondheim have created and developed their original works.

The Tisch School of Arts have many valuable contacts in the New York Theatre World. Not only do they have the capacity for setting up their students with internships on Broadway but they also provide a high standard of training required for a theatre practitioner. This gives students a very real chance of making it in the cutting edge world of Broadway.

New York University - Tisch School of Arts

New York University - Tisch School of Arts

When I first started looking into applying, the school did refer me to two different institutions through which I could get an International Student loan with a home country co-signer.” Zoe said.

However, when I called these banks they had cancelled this particular type of loan for reasons associated with the Global Financial Crisis. NYU was unable to offer any assistance regarding alternative forms of payment.” She added.

Because the course is four years long Zoe would have needed to raise $200,000 in total to be able to attend.

There are federal loans available to US citizens and some organisations offer International Student loans if the student can find a credit worthy US citizen or permanent resident to co-sign with them. But without any residents or friends that live in the US, this is incredibly difficult to obtain.

The university basically told me that I had to find the funds on my own, which I have tried to do but I have found it to be virtually impossible without winning the lottery.” Zoe said.

Zoe then looked into the possibility of her partner Liam moving to New York with her in an attempt to earn money to help support her. But they then learned this was an even tougher problem to solve. Liam’s visa options included a 12 month working visa, for which he would have to be able to find a US sponsor to obtain and after which completed he couldn’t return to continue living with Zoe.

The American Embassy in Canberra states that in order to work legally in the U.S., non-residents must first locate an employer or sponsor who files a petition that basically states that they are more fitted for the job than any American citizen.

And on top of all that the American embassy does not recognize de facto relationships. Therefore Zoe and Liam’s only other option was to get married.

Spousal visas are very restrictive – I would not have legally been able to work, so our income, even if Zoe worked the maximum of 20 hours per week as designated by her student visa, would have been grossly insufficient to support a couple.” Liam said.

NYU did nothing to help Zoe except to send her out on her own to raise $200,000. What American Universities don’t seem to understand is that money and student loans work differently here in Australia. American students are used to this price for a decent college education; their parents and grandparents have been saving and preparing for these costs often for the entire period of their child’s life.

It was because of this that Zoe had to accept her inevitable fate.

Loans here don’t go anywhere near as high as that unless you’re looking at a mortgage and given that education loans have no collateral, there was nothing for it except to accept that it was just too much.” She said.


~ by berwickgroup2 on October 9, 2009.

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