Coming to Bennington

A Bennington Education

One of the important factors that attracted you to Bennington is the liberal arts approach to education. You are encouraged and expected to study a wide range of disciplines during your first year and throughout your time at Bennington. You will work with faculty to develop an individualized course of study that is driven by the questions you are most compelled to answer.

  • The process by which Bennington students declare their specialized area of study is called the Plan Process. The Plan Process replaces the traditional major/minor structure  to allow you to work in conjunction with faculty mentors in crafting a curriculum that best addresses your areas of interest.
  • A central tenet of the liberal arts philosophy is that students will explore various academic disciplines. One of the requirements of the Plan Process is for students to conduct an interdisciplinary investigation in their field of study. You will take courses in a variety of subjects in order to comprehensively understand the intersections among disciplines and to develop the ability to adapt to a world that increasingly demands versatile thinkers.

Field Work Term

Another unique feature of the Bennington education is the Field Work Term (FWT). This seven-week off-campus experience takes place from early January until the middle of February each year, during which students pursue jobs and internships in areas that complement their studies. It is an opportunity to immerse yourself in a working environment, and apply and reflect upon your classroom experience in the real world.

By the end of your time at Bennington, you will have completed four FWTs and have acquired a body of work experiences, a set of references, a network of professional contacts, and most important, the confidence that you can make your way in the world.

Important Considerations for the Field Work Term in the First Year

The Department of Homeland Security regulations affect FWT options for international students during their first year. International students on F-1 visas who have been in the country for less than nine months are generally not eligible to work off-campus in the United States for any type of compensation—including pay, room and board, academic credit, graduation requirements, etc. As a first-year international student, you have several options to complete your first FWT, including:

  • Work in a paid position on campus
  • Defer your first FWT to the summer when you can work for pay anywhere in the U.S.
  • Apply for a FWT position in your home country
  • Arrange a volunteer FWT position abroad

You can discuss these options when you arrive on campus and choose the one that works best for you. For more information on the above options, visit the FWT for international students page.

On-Campus Residence Options for Winter Break and FWT

Some international students with demonstrated financial need may be unable to return home during the winter break and FWT; or they may be unable to travel or stay with friends or relatives; or they may have an on-campus job during January and February. If this is the case for you, you have the option to apply for on-campus housing during this time. It’s important to know that campus housing over FWT is not part of the regular room and board fee, but it is offered at a discounted price and is often less expensive than international travel.

The 2016 FWT on-campus room rate was $550. Please note this amount may change for the 2017 FWT.

During FWT, many campus services are not open, including the dining halls and Health Services. Since there is no meal plan available over the winter period, students staying on campus prepare their own meals in the kitchenettes of their assigned house and cover their own food expenses. Shuttles are available through Green Mountain Express to take students to a local grocery store and to downtown Bennington.

Financing your Education

You’re already well-aware that education in the U.S. is a financial investment. It is a complex situation with many contributing factors. Bennington is committed to doing as much as it can to help international students study here, and this explanation is meant to help you understand the various elements.

International students attending any U.S. college or university will have a number of expenses in addition to tuition, room and board. These include:

  • SEVIS fee: The government charges $200 as a processing fee to enroll in the SEVIS program.
  • Health Insurance: Health insurance is mandatory for all students. You will find more information about this below.
  • Taxes: All international students are required to report to the U.S. tax service each year, even if they did not work in the previous year. You will find more information about this below.
  • Transportation: Typically, transportation is a greater expense for international students and requires more planning in advance.

Remember that these are expenses no matter which U.S. college an international student may choose.

The cost of attendance is the total amount of tuition, fees, room and board, books, and supplies in addition to other estimated school expenses. Keep in mind that personal expenses outside of tuition, fees and room and board are not included in scholarships or grants awarded by the College.

Bennington charges include tuition, room and board, an activities fee, a health administration fee, a transcript fee for entering students, and possibly materials for some classes. Though Bennington does not charge tuition for Field Work Term, students are responsible for any related costs. Other services for which the College charges include car registration fees (optional) and health insurance (mandatory if no other coverage). Budgeting for the cost of a student’s education means planning for more general expenses as well. These may include books and supplies, personal expenses, climate specific clothing, FWT room/board and travel, and transportation to and from school. While these costs do not appear on a student’s bill, they are real expenses and require an expenditure of resources.

U.S. Work Opportunities

Fall and Spring Terms

Students studying in the United States on an F-1 student visa are able to work and earn income on campus. This is a basic privilege of the F-1 student visa and does not require special paperwork.

Field Work Term and Summer

After F-1 students complete their first academic year of full-time study, they are eligible for paid employment opportunities anywhere in the U.S. that are related to academic pursuits and a required part of their degree program. For more information, visit the hiring an international student or recent graduate page.

Term Start-up Expenses

For many students, most of the funds for books, supplies and personal expenses are needed at the beginning of a term, generally before the student can get an on-campus job and paycheck. You should plan to arrive on campus with sufficient funds for books, supplies, and initial living expenses (at least $600). The first paycheck for students with on-campus jobs arrives nearly a month after classes begin. Students who will not work should anticipate expenses totaling at least $3,000 for books, supplies, and personal expenses during the year.

Funding your Field Work Term

You’ll be responsible for all costs during winter break and Field Work Term, including transportation, food, housing and personal expenses. Costs will vary depending on your location, with expenses ranging from $500–$2500. FWT jobs that pay and/or that offer housing can help cover these costs. Most students save up money over the summer and during the fall term to help cover expenses during this time. Due to limited FWT work options for first-year international students on F-1 visas, the College has made available a number of on-campus FWT positions for students with demonstrated financial need who are unable to return home.  Students hired to work on campus over FWT will earn approximately $2000 to help cover living expenses such as meals and housing. The College has also established a need-based first-year International Student Fund to help those planning to go abroad for FWT. Grants are competitive, limited in number, and intended to cover only a portion of FWT expenses. For more information about FWT grants, please visit the FWT grant overview page.

Living on Campus

One of the best aspects of Bennington is the residential experience, and Bennington student houses consistently top the rankings in Princeton Review’s “Dorms Like Palaces” list. All students live on campus unless approved otherwise. Students live not in dorms but in houses of generally 30–45 people each, with architectural styles ranging from modern design to clapboard houses reflecting 1930s New England.

  • Each house offers kitchens and cozy common areas (most with fireplaces), where students relax, study, socialize, and hold weekly Coffee Hours to discuss campus and house issues together.
  • All houses are co-educational. There are co-ed bathrooms for every four to five rooms, all with showers, and many with bathtubs. Depending on where you live, you might find yourself enjoying a patio or porch overlooking panoramic views of the mountains, a piano, or a second living room.
  • House communities are made up of student from all classes, continuing students, transfer students, and first-year students. Some of the current students will have lived in your house for many terms, while others will be new to the house. Through your housemates, you’ll discover new inspiring ideas and influences, and express your personality and passions.
  • House Chairs are undergraduate students who serve as community leaders to house residents. There are two House Chairs in each house. They are knowledgeable about resources available on campus, serve as a liaison between campus services and your house, and run Coffee Hour, the weekly house meeting.
  • All first- and second-year students have one or more roommates. After their first year, students have the option to continue living with their first-year roommates or to room with someone new.
  • Exceptions to the residential requirement are rare, and students should not expect that living off-campus will be an option during their time as an undergraduate at Bennington. Students who are 24 years or older are eligible to live off campus; the other exceptions can be found in the Student Handbook.

Dining Services

  • All students are enrolled in the campus meal plan. In rare cases, exceptions to this policy may be granted.
  • Meals at the Dining Hall offer students a wide range of options, drawing on cuisines from Thai to Cajun to Italian.
  • Vegetarian and vegan selections are served at every meal and special event.
  • Cooking stations and ingredients are available for students to prepare some of their own food.
  • The Dining Hall has several dining rooms and an outdoor porch. It serves three meals a day on weekdays, and on weekends a continental breakfast, brunch, and dinner. Students with visiting guests can purchase guest passes through Dining Services.
  • If you have a special diet or diet restrictions, you can arrange to meet with the executive chef to explore available options.

Taxes for International Students

As noted above, it’s a legal requirement for all international students to report to the U.S. tax service each year, even if you did not work in the previous year. Under U.S. tax law, scholarship money covering room and board is taxable, while scholarship money covering tuition, books and fees is not taxable. In addition, if you receive scholarship money that is paid directly to you by cash or check, rather than paid to the college, then U.S. tax law considers those funds to be fully taxable even if they are applied to tuition, books and fees.

If you earned income in the U.S. in the previous year, you may be obligated to pay taxes. Sources of income may include:

  • on-campus employment
  • practical or academic training
  • scholarships
  • fellowships;
  • any other compensation received in exchange for a service

In other words, “income” is not limited to wages paid through a paycheck; but also includes any portion of a scholarship, fellowship, or assistantship from a U.S. source paid to the College and applied to housing and meal expenses. The portion applied to tuition, fees, and books is not considered income. However, if scholarship money is provided directly to a student by check or cash, it is fully taxable even if the student intends to use it to pay for tuition, fees, and/or books. You may have questions about how this applies to you, and as always, please ask. You will also receive a tax document created by the College that estimates the taxes you will likely be responsible for based on your scholarship from the school and the treaty between your country and the U.S., if one exists, which will also be reflected in the tax document.

Bennington College purchases a license to Sprintax Tax Prep Software for each international student to help you prepare your required tax filings. You will learn more about this when you are on campus.

If you are employed in the United States, your employer will send you a statement of earnings, called a Form W-2, by the end of January that details your income and any taxes withheld during the previous year. If you receive benefits of a tax treaty for employment, scholarship or fellowship income, you will receive a Form 1042-S by mid-March that details your income and treaty benefits. You will need these documents to complete your tax forms. Be sure to keep copies of all your tax documents.

Please see the tax-estimator tool to determine federal taxes owed.

Health Insurance

In the United States the cost of health care is very high, including:

  • Routine medical care
  • Emergency care
  • Lab tests
  • Visits to specialists
  • Prescriptions
  • Emergency Room visits
  • Mental health care
  • Hospitalization

Health insurance from other countries often provides limited services while the student is abroad and/or may exclude the U.S. entirely.  For these reasons, incoming international students are required to purchase the Prime Plus plan from IFS insurance shown in the grid below for the their stay in the U.S. The only exception to this is if the student can provide documentation and demonstrate that an alternative policy from their country covers a reasonable amount of medical care in the U.S. Plans that have unreasonably high deductibles will not be approved as exceptions. If your country provides student health insurance coverage for you while you are in the U.S., please forward that documentation in English to healthservices@bennington.edu for review and response. Documentation for review must be received before August 15, 2017.

ISS health insurance 2017-2018

If a student willfully fails to maintain the insurance coverage or makes a material misrepresentation to the College regarding the coverage, the student will be considered in violation of their good standing at Bennington College. It is the student’s responsibility, not Bennington’s, to obtain and maintain insurance coverage.

Health insurance definitions included below. Students should be in touch with the College if they have other questions or concerns regarding health insurance coverage by emailing: healthservices@bennington.edu.

Definitions
  • ACA-compliant coverage refers to a major medical health insurance policy that conforms to the regulations set forth in the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). These plans can be sold on or off the exchange, but all new individual major medical policies sold after January 1, 2014, are required to be ACA-compliant.  This means they must include coverage for the 10 essential benefits with no lifetime or annual benefit maximums, and must adhere to the consumer protections built into the law.
  • Coinsurance refers to money that an individual is required to pay for services, after a deductible has been paid. Coinsurance is often specified by a percentage. For example, the insured pays 20 percent toward the charges for a service and the employer or insurance company pays 80 percent.  After the insured has paid the deductible, he’s responsible for a percentage of the costs, specified by the coinsurance split (80/20, 90/10, and 70/30 are common coinsurance splits, with the insured paying the smaller percentage and the carrier paying the higher percentage). That remains the case until the out-of-pocket maximum (OOMP) for the year is reached.  At that point, the insurance company starts to pay 100 percent of covered claims until the end of the year.
  • Copay or Copayment is a predetermined (flat) fee that an individual pays for health care services, in addition to what the insurance covers. For example, some HMOs require a $10 copayment for each office visit, regardless of the type or level of services provided during the visit. Copayments are not usually specified by percentages.
  • Comprehensive coverage—also known as major medical health insurance—refers to plans that cover a wide range of health services (i.e., not a limited-benefit plan or supplemental policy). All new individual policies sold after January 1, 2014 must be at least as comprehensive as the Affordable Care Act requires, meaning that they cover the ten essential health benefits with no annual or lifetime benefit caps. Plans that predate 2014 are still considered comprehensive if they are major medical policies, but they are generally not as robust as the new policies.
  • Deductible is the amount an individual must pay for health care expenses before insurance (or a self-insured company) covers the costs. Often, insurance plans are based on yearly deductible amounts.
  • Generic drug—Once a company’s patent on a brand-name prescription drug has expired, other drug companies are allowed to sell the same drug under a generic label. Generic drugs are less expensive, and most prescription and health plans reward clients for choosing generic drugs.
  • Prescription Tier—Tiers apply to the category and cost of drug. Tiers include: Preferred generic (commonly prescribed generic drugs); Generic (generic drugs that cost a little more than preferred generic); Preferred Brand (brand-name drugs that don’t have a generic equivalent); Nonpreferred Drug (higher-priced brand-name and generic drugs not considered preferred); and  Specialty (most expensive drugs on the drug list used to treat complex conditions like cancer and multiple sclerosis. They can be generic or brand name).
  • SVMC—Southwest Vermont Medical Center is the local hospital for the region located in Bennington, Vermont.

For more information see: https://www.healthinsurance.org/glossary/

Questions?

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact International Student Services, 802-753-2491. During the summer the office is open 8:30AM–4:00PM (Eastern Standard Time).