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Thread: The Fee Waiver Program Must Be Changed!

  1. #1
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    Thumbs down The Fee Waiver Program Must Be Changed!

    I sent this to the SOA after talking to customer service. I am told I cannot have a fee waiver because I am not a minority. This letter explains why, if the goal is to help socio-economically disadvantaged students, the policy should be changed.

    To whom it may concern:

    I am writing this letter in response to the new fee waivers that the SOA is offering to minorities. This policy's intention must either be to increase the membership of minorities in the actuarial community or help socio-economically disadvantaged students. My opinion is that the current policy focuses on the former goal and ignores the latter. My opinion is that if the SOA's intentions are the latter, the policy should be reformed immediately to provide waivers to those with socio-economic challenges, and not challenges based on race.

    To give a specific example as to how this policy misses the latter goal, I will use myself.

    I am white. When I was born I became a ward of the state at 5 months of age. Afterwards, I grew up in a guardian home and fully supported myself by age 16, but not by the quality of life standard that most people have. I have barely "stayed afloat" financially. After finishing my undergraduate economics degree I have $37,000 debt in student loans, maxed out my credit cards to $10,000, and no vehicle.

    Already I have signed up and taken 3 actuarial examinations, all with unfavorable results. This has added up to $500 over the last 6 months. Last year my adjusted gross income was $3XXX. As any acutary could see, these exams took over 14% of my disposable income last year, which is already extremely below the poverty line. Currently, I am still "treading water" for my financial survival and depend on several government programs, such as food stamps. My last paycheck from my job as as tax preparer for Express Tax was $238, and in the next 10 days I want to register for the P exam, but in order to do so I must forgo paying rent for my apartment because the cost of the exam obviously exceeds my budget constraint.

    As you can see from this example above, I am a socio-economically disadvantaged student. I believe that it is unequitable for the SOA to base their fee waivers on color of my skin instead of the severity of my economic hardship. Truly, if the intention was to help those who must work through barriers to enter this job market, then I would qualify. The only thing preventing me from receiving a fee waiver is the color of my skin, which was given to me from the parents that I never had nor knew. In light of this example, I would like to request a fee waiver and/or fee reduction for my P and FM exam so that I may take both in May. If the SOA's intentions are to create an even playing field, I should clearly receive one. Otherwise, the SOA is strictly focusing on placing more minorities into the job market and not to help those in extreme need. Perhaps the SOA should look into fee waiver policies of other professional organizations, such as the Law School Admissions Council fee waiver program, which requires students to send their 1040s to the LSAC for a fee waiver to be granted based on need. Then you would have proof of economic hardship and would not have to discriminate who should receive a fee waiver based on race. I think a policy change like this would make the SOA much more respected, and would better achieve the latter principle mentioned previously.

    I thank you for your time, and look forward to future changes and correspondence.

    Sincerely,
    Chart

    P.S. Please call or write to make the same statement to the SOA at 888.697.3900 or feedback@soa.org.
    Last edited by admin; March 11th 2008 at 01:44 PM. Reason: No money solicitations allowed on forums

  2. #2
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    I'm a minority and NO idea about the fee waiver for minorities. I just thought it was waived if you're from a certain country outside the US and Canada. I called them to ask if i got a discount considering the school i'm in has an actuarial program. they said the $175 for the first exam IS the discount. I never even thought about asking based on my race. But I think you deserved your fee waived. I wouldn't have invested so much money though. If I fail after the second attempt and I can't afford it, I might switch majors

  3. #3
    You spam? I ban! Irish Blues's Avatar
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    If I had any inkling of supporting this, the fact that you cross-posted this across every forum here kills that notion. It's much more likely that I and any other actuarial manager takes your name down and, upon seeing your resume cross my desk, recalls this diatribe and draws a big X across it and puts it through the shredder.

    Life isn't fair. If you want fair, go find the place that offers popcorn and taffy and balloons and sideshows and the fun games that give the chincy little prizes.
    Last edited by Irish Blues; March 10th 2008 at 07:35 PM.
    "You better get to living, because dying's a pain in the ***." - Frank Sinatra

    http://www.hockeybuzz.com/blogger_ar...blogger_id=174 - where I talk about the Blues and the NHL.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Irish Blues View Post
    If I had any inkling of supporting this, the fact that you cross-posted this across every forum here kills that notion. It's much more likely that I and any other actuarial manager takes your name down and, upon seeing your resume cross my desk, recalls this diatribe and draws a big X across it and puts it through the shredder.

    Life isn't fair. If you want fair, go find the place that offers popcorn and taffy and balloons and sideshows and the fun games that give the chincy little prizes.
    If that's your statement, then why do we offer waivers and reimbursements in the first place?!?!?!
    The very reason we do that is to make it a more level playing field. In fact, your lack of generosity makes you the one who will be ostracized in this scenario. Maybe the money got to you too.

    And why would someone put a big X on something like this? Clearly, hard work and attempting social change should be respected, not insulted nor belittled. Shame on you! This is Chance and I feel that I was unnecessarily banned. There is no reason to be banned, especially since this topic is relevant to virtually every forum. I ask that you reinstate my account. I'll go find another forum to speak my word where someone does want to hear it.
    Last edited by Blank_Check; March 10th 2008 at 08:14 PM.

  5. #5
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    Life gives us a series of choices. The most important choices are how we treat others. IMO, IB, you missed one Chance.

    One aspect of the actuarial profession that is outstanding is the ultimate fairness in administration of exams. Exam scoring is blind to gender, color, and creed. So are most employers of actuaries, who care most about whether you can do the work, as indicated by passing exams.

    I happen to agree with Chance's statements. I don't know about the "cross-posting", which seems a poor choice, but race-based programs often yield unfair results, despite the good intent behind them. Somebody usually gets unfairly treated.

    Actuarial employers invest in actuarial study time because it usually pays off long-term. Managers invest in training because they'll return better work. Educational organizations such as SoA invest in those who need help (e.g., via waivers) because the return on investment is greater than making education or training available only to the rich.
    I thought this WAS a real job

  6. #6
    You spam? I ban! Irish Blues's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JMO Fan View Post
    I happen to agree with Chance's statements. I don't know about the "cross-posting", which seems a poor choice, but race-based programs often yield unfair results, despite the good intent behind them. Somebody usually gets unfairly treated.
    There are precious few "special treatment" programs that I think are a good idea. If one happens to disagree with something, fine - I don't have a problem with that, there's things I disagree with frequently. Going on an internet message board and teeing off about it isn't the way to go, though. Even if the point is valid, you simply look bitter and whiny and leave the impression that if I put you to work and tell you to do something and you don't like it, you're going to thrash and wail about on the floor like a 4-year old ... and that's something an employer doesn't want.

    Should the SOA take into consideration the financial ability of exam applicants? Probably - but then there's the whole process of verifying who really can't afford to pay and who can but is just trying to get a free lunch, and that costs money and time [which will then be reflected in exam fees, dues, etc.] and someone is going to have to pay those increased costs. At some point, the line has to be drawn - the question is, where to draw it? At what point do we decide that "you can't afford to pay for your exams because you're making $20,000 and have 3 kids and $15,000 in credit card debt and got kicked out of your house last year, but this other person can afford to pay because he/she doesn't have any debt or kids but is making $13,000 a year and has graduated college." I certainly don't want to be the one deciding to make that arbitrary call, I doubt anyone in the SOA is going to step up to that one either.

    I know when I took 1 and 2, I was going to school full-time and working full-time to support my family and driving 3 hours a day to/from work, school, and home - and no one gave me the exam fees for free, nor did I expect someone to do so. I managed to scratch them out of my pocket, especially when Mrs. IB was carrying twins and was in the hospital every week for 4 months for dehydration. I never dreamed of saying that "I deserve a break because of _________" - I looked at it as, "I want into the field so bad, I'll scrimp and save to put together the money to take the exam."

    No, the better course of action would have been to write to someone like Bruce Schoebel at the SOA and ask for special consideration ... not launch a missive here. From what I've seen here, nothing remotely close to that happened - it was simply, "I got told no, I'm going to throw a tantrum because life wasn't fair to me."

    To which I say: life isn't always fair.
    "You better get to living, because dying's a pain in the ***." - Frank Sinatra

    http://www.hockeybuzz.com/blogger_ar...blogger_id=174 - where I talk about the Blues and the NHL.

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    Fee Waiver/Reimbursments

    As a debater both in high school and college, I would like to show more arguments against this policy.

    To correct the vocabulary, I will start with an argument that I call a topicality.

    Topicality

    A. Definition: Diversity

    from: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/diversity

    di·ver·si·ty /dɪˈvɜrsɪti, daɪ-/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[di-vur-si-tee, dahy-] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation
    –noun, plural -ties. 1. the state or fact of being diverse; difference; unlikeness. 2. variety; multiformity. 3. a point of difference.

    di·ver·si·ty (dĭ-vûr'sĭ-tē, dī-) Pronunciation Key
    n. pl. di·ver·si·ties
    The fact or quality of being diverse; difference.
    A point or respect in which things differ.
    Variety or multiformity: "Charles Darwin saw in the diversity of species the principles of evolution that operated to generate the species: variation, competition and selection" (Scientific American).

    diversity

    noun
    1. noticeable heterogeneity; "a diversity of possibilities"; "the range and variety of his work is amazing" [syn: diverseness]
    2. the condition or result of being changeable

    B. Violation
    Here are the two policies the SOA offers for fee waivers and reimbursements.

    Fee Waivers are offered to actuarial test takers residing in the following nations:
    Albania
    Algeria
    Angola
    Argentina
    Armenia
    Azerbaijan
    Bangladesh
    Belarus
    Benin
    Bolivia
    Bosnia & Herzegonia
    Botswana
    Brazil
    Bulgaria
    Burkina Faso
    Burundi
    Cambodia
    Cameroon
    Central African Republic
    Chad
    Chile
    China *
    Colombia
    Congo
    Costa Rica
    Côte d'Ivoire
    Croatia
    Czech Republic
    Dominican Republic
    Ecuador
    Egypt
    El Salvador
    Eritrea
    Estonia
    Ethiopia
    Gabon
    Gambia
    Georgia
    Ghana
    Guatemala
    Guinea
    Guinea–Bissau
    Haiti
    Honduras
    Hungary
    India
    Indonesia
    Iran
    Iraq
    Jamaica
    Jordan
    Kazakhstan
    Kenya
    Kyrgyz
    Lao PDR
    Latvia
    Lebanon
    Lesotho
    Liberia
    Lithuania
    Macedonia FYR
    Madagascar
    Malawi
    Malaysia
    Mali
    Mauritania
    Mauritius
    Mexico
    Moldova
    Mongolia
    Morocco
    Mozambique
    Namibia
    Nepal
    Nicaragua
    Niger
    Nigeria
    Pakistan
    Panama
    Papua New Guinea
    Paraguay
    Peru
    Philippines
    Poland
    Romania
    Russian Federation
    Rwanda
    Saudi Arabia
    Senegal
    Sierra Leone
    Slovak Republic
    South Africa
    Sri Lanka
    Sudan
    Swaziland
    Syrian Arab Republic
    Tajikistan
    Tanzania
    Thailand
    Togo
    Trinidad & Tobago
    Tunisia
    Turkey
    Turkmenistan
    Uganda
    Ukraine
    Uruguay
    Uzbekistan
    West Bank & Gaza
    Venezuela
    Vietnam
    Yemen
    Yugoslavia, Fed Rep
    Zambia
    Zimbabwe

    Reimbursements for successful P and/or FM examinations are offered to the following groups in the United States: African North American, Hispanic, or Native North American

    a. This policy does not encourage "diversity" by definition
    This policy does not meet the definition of diversity, and in fact, the SOA has refined the definition of "multiformity" "difference" "unlikeness" on nationality and race. Chance is definitely very "different or unlike" many actuaries because of his background.
    b. Difference is inherently vague. If we can base diversity on race and nationality, then we may as well do it on sex and age as well, for these are all different standards that "could" theoretically be used. All four sorts of discrimination are traditionally looked down upon in the labor market.
    c. The SOA does not take the responsibility in clearly defining what diversity is and making this definition publicly accessible. I searched "diversity" on soa.org and found this as the most useful link:
    http://www.soa.org/leadership/commit...ct-divers.aspx
    d. In fact, the SOA has in it's transcripts that diversity can be "background experiences, gender, race, age, attitude, religion, appearance, dress, clothes, and personality." this can be found here: http://www.soa.org/library/proceedin...V27N3122TS.PDF
    (I searched the definition of diversity and this is what I found to be the most useful)
    e. The SOA fails to meet any reasonable sense of diversity, even by the sources on their own website. They have restricted diversity exclusively to nationality and race.

    3. Standards for accepting this definitiona. This definition is the "common man's definition" (or woman's)If some average American or actuary were to look up diversity in a dicitonary, they would find one of these definitions. You wouldn't find "race" or "nationality" in Merriam Webster's Dictionary because those characteristics do not solely define diversity. Neither does it define diversity in their own transcripts and conversations available online.
    b. Brightline
    This definition gives you a clear brightline that diversity is not and cannot be defined to mean just a few specific characteristics such as race or nationality. Even in the transcripts from the conversation posted earlier. So many other parts of diversity were discussed, but completely ignored by the SOA's policy. Clearly, they do not meet the brightline of their own definition.
    c. The SOA's definition is a moving target
    Since the SOA does not clearly lay out what is "diverse" on their webpage (especially on the homepage for the Committee on Diversity), they can change their definition as public sentiment bears against them, allowing them to amend their definition of diversity and avoid public backlash.
    d. Context

    This definition gives all English speakers a good contextual meaning of what diversity is. The context of "race" or "nationality" is a poor context for the use of the word diversity in the workplace.

    4. Reasons to act on this policy
    If the SOA is going to boost minority participation in the workforce, then the definition should be clearly laid out and changed from diversity. Otherwise, the SOA should focus on all aspects of diversity, especially because the current policy obviously fails at doing so...


    ...which leads me to my next argument what I call a "counter plan", or an alternative plan to foster diversity.

    Counterplan: Make diversity an issue of socio-economic importance, not race nor nationality

    Text: The SOA should reform it's current definition of diversity, clearly display it, and change it's policy to encourage "multiformity" among the actuarial workforce through a more highly prioritized value of a socio-economic standard. The SOA should accept 1040s from American test takers who wish to apply for a fee waiver and/or reimbursement and re-establish a policy exclusively based on need to better foster diversity. Those individuals with income below 40% of the U.S. poverty line would qualify. Applicants from other nations will still be able to apply, and the SOA/CAS would de-centralize the waiver/reimbursment system to committees within each nation and establish a loss prevention committee to prevent abuse and make the standard equivocal across all nations. ALL INDIVIDUALS WHO APPLY WITH INCOME BELOW 40% OF THE US POVERTY LINE WOULD QUALIFY, regardless of nation and race. This 40% criterion should be adjusted to the currency of each nation.

    Solvency: The Counter Plan will work
    a. Actuaries are able to make a general standard across all nations, races, sexes, and ages regardless of economic performance. Anyone who has income below 40% of the US poverty line would qualify, and should because this is "our standard" and if citizens of other nations live below our "quality of life substantially" they should qualify.
    b. The plan encourages diversity because it gives those who would have absolutely no chance at applying and taking theses exams an opportunity to do so.
    c. The SOA will not "miss out" on a substantial amount of international or minority test takers with the new policy. Minorities in the US who qualify will still be able to take the exam, and the ones above the 40% mark should be able to take the exam anyway. The reasoning here is that the SOA expects non-minority students to take the exam regardless of economic hardship, or they simply do not care about diversifying the society in this way. Either way, this policy gives "different" actuarial students a chance. Almost all international students would still qualify, especially if you know anything about the nations on the list. If international students do not qualify, it shouldn't matter because they have more of an opportunity than US students which makes them more similar to actuaries already in the job market. Moreover, since the 40% mark is adjusted to currency, the policy still gives internationals an advantage over Americans because the cost of living the countries above is EXTREMELY BELOW the U.S. cost of living, so clearly they would have a comparative advantage over US students as far as finances are concerned.

    Comparative Advantages of the Counter Plan to the Status Quo
    a. The CP provides for diversity better because instead of giving wealthy individuals fee waivers or reimbursements, only those that need the help will receive it. Wealthy individuals are prominent among actuaries, and including more into the workforce does not encourage multiformity.
    b. The CP prevents waste that is present in the current system. As said above, wealthy i.e. non diverse individuals from all nationalities and races benefit from the current plan. The CP prevents this from happening and instead of putting money into the pocket of wealthy individuals who can and would take the exams anyway, it makes these person pay. In effect, those that could not normally take the exam i.e. diverse individuals would.
    c. The SOA should not lose a substantial amount of minority or international test takers. As already mentioned, individuals above this mark would be more likely to take the exam anyway (and the SOA should take the responsibility to find out). Look, I can't predict the future, but actuaries can fairly well. If the SOA really wanted to, they could predict the exact criterion (and not accept my 40% estimate) as to which specific income level would give less than a 5% risk that a minority or international student would not take the exam for financial reasons. They could do 1% if they wanted to. The simple fact is, they are not doing so even though it would better encourage diversity and distribute funding/opportunity to candidates who need them.

    In sum, such a counterplan would be a dominating strategy if the SOA really wanted to encourage diversity by definition. It has failed to do so, despite discussions of diversity that took place over 7 years ago at the New Orleans Annual Meeting session for Managing Diversity in the Workplace (again, see: http://www.soa.org/library/proceedin...27N3122TS.PDF).

    The question we should all be asking ourselves is "Why is the SOA continuing it's current policy on diversity?" The answer "there is no way to find out." It does not meet the definition, which has better standards than the absent definition of diversity on the SOA's webpage. It is not the best way to encourage diversity, and in fact a reformation could improve diversity. It is up to you reading this to call the SOA and complain. Nothing is going to change until the individual members of this society speak up to it's institutionalized body and ask for it. Please, do so.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Irish Blues View Post
    Going on an internet message board and teeing off about it isn't the way to go, though. Even if the point is valid, you simply look bitter and whiny and leave the impression that if I put you to work and tell you to do something and you don't like it, you're going to thrash and wail about on the floor like a 4-year old ... and that's something an employer doesn't want.
    I believe you are completely wrong here. Here's why:
    a. I do not look bitter, and the letter doesn't come off that way. It is a very mature and collected statement aimed at making a social change. Anybody who takes these exams would see the relevancy to this issue. Nobody is standing up to try to make a change. When someone does correct what he or she believes to be wrong, it is considered generally good. The letter does not express whiny-ness nor does it come off as a 4 year old (seriously, look at the vocabulary). If anyone is coming off as immature here, it is you because of your unnecessary name calling. A point is simply being made and publicized, and there is no reason to make it personal. If you disagree with the marketing techniques of this statement, then that is one issue. To make it personal is another.

    Quote Originally Posted by Irish Blues View Post
    Should the SOA take into consideration the financial ability of exam applicants? Probably - but then there's the whole process of verifying who really can't afford to pay and who can but is just trying to get a free lunch, and that costs money and time
    And the money that woudl be saved from providing students who would pay for the exams anyway but receive fee waivers/reimbursements could in fact pay for this and so much more. So many other professional organizations already do this. By the way, you ignored the statement about the LSAC using 1040s, and they also have fee waiver programs for international students. It is not impossible, and in fact it is more efficient and equitable. You show no evidence that this is unaffordable, and other massive professional organizations prove you wrong already.

    Quote Originally Posted by Irish Blues View Post
    I I never dreamed of saying that "I deserve a break because of _________" - I looked at it as, "I want into the field so bad, I'll scrimp and save to put together the money to take the exam."
    The letter does not say "I deserve a break". The letter identifies a current policy which is bias, and you agree. Breaks are already being given, and in an inequitable fashion. The letter's aim is to make the program more fair, not to ask for a break. Please stop changing what has been said. Please stop mis-categorizing the letter. You are incorrect.

    Quote Originally Posted by Irish Blues View Post
    No, the better course of action would have been to write to someone like Bruce Schoebel at the SOA and ask for special consideration ... not launch a missive here. From what I've seen here, nothing remotely close to that happened - it was simply, "I got told no, I'm going to throw a tantrum because life wasn't fair to me."

    To which I say: life isn't always fair.
    1. If you read post, you would have realized it was already sent to the SOA.
    2. Doing so does not change the system, in fact, it would only benefit one person. That was not the point of the letter.
    3. Life isn't fair, but the purpose of diversity programs, fee waivers, and reimbursments is to make it more fair. You have failed to realize this now 2 posts in a row.
    4. There is no trantrum written here, you have made a categorical mistake.
    5. If you read the post, it was sent to the SOA. It sounds like something remotely like "sending a letter to X persona t teh SOA for special consideration" did in fact occur, but you must have failed to see that. That is exactly what occured and you are mis reading this all somehow.
    6. Again, there is no need to make personal attacks, for this letter makes none to you or to anyone else. Please stop, for this forum is not a place to name call, but to learn, make change, and communicate. If you have to, then go somewhere else, for most people here do not want to have their time wasted by such poor reading.

  9. #9
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    There is some confusion here that I would like to help clear up. The SOA/CAS fee discount program is not an effort to increase diversification. It is an effort to help establish the actuarial field in less developed countries. One of the requirements to recieve the discount is that you must be a current fulltime resident of one of the countries on their list. For more information, read about the program at: http://www.soa.org/education/exams/e...t-program.aspx

    The program has nothing to do with race, many of the countries on the list are predominately white. It has to do with helping other countries establish a strong insurance industry by promoting actuarial science.

    Other requirements include:

    Candidate Eligibility Requirements

    *The Candidate must be a current full–time resident of a qualified country. (A complete list of qualified countries is attached.) Residents of the U.S. and Canada are not eligible.
    *The Candidate must attest that he or she is personally paying for examination fees and study materials and that he/she is not being reimbursed by an employer, or a company or other individual or entity.
    *The Candidate must complete a one–time application for financial relief, attesting to the need for assistance.
    *The Candidate will lose eligibility upon leaving the country, or upon receiving financial support or reimbursement for examination fees and/or SOA published study materials.
    *If a candidate meets the requirements and is approved for assistance, should the country lose eligibility in a subsequent year, the candidate will retain the right to assistance for a period of three years, starting from the date that the country loses its eligibility.
    *Candidates must write their examinations within a qualified country.
    *Candidates may not register for more than two examinations per exam session under the discount program. Standard fees will be assessed on registrations which exceed this limit. This limit will be observed when candidates register for both CAS and SOA exams.
    *Candidates may attempt the same examination no more than three times under the reduced examination fee program

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    Quote Originally Posted by Trojan_Horse View Post
    There is some confusion here that I would like to help clear up. The SOA/CAS fee discount program is not an effort to increase diversification. It is an effort to help establish the actuarial field in less developed countries. One of the requirements to recieve the discount is that you must be a current fulltime resident of one of the countries on their list. For more information, read about the program at: http://www.soa.org/education/exams/e...t-program.aspx

    The program has nothing to do with race, many of the countries on the list are predominately white. It has to do with helping other countries establish a strong insurance industry by promoting actuarial science.
    I disagree. The program has everything to do with ethnicity and nationality.
    The Committee on Diversity's webpage is here:
    http://www.soa.org/leadership/commit...ct-divers.aspx

    1. It says their mission is: "to facilitate the evolution of a multi-dimensional actuarial profession by recruiting quality mathematical and analytical talent from the African-American, Hispanic and Native American communities." This does not meet the definition of diversity listed above. This program has everything to do with ethnicity and nationality, because you must meet specific ethnic or origin guidelines to reap the benefits.

    2. Show us where on the website it explicitly states that the reasoning behind this program is to expand the actuarial field internationally. To make this claim, you should provide evidence. If this is true, then give us the link because it should be on the website. I can't find this on their website, and if I can't it must be really difficult to locate. That should be up to you to verify.

    3. You miss the point. It is price discrimination based on nationality ethnicity, and location (reimbursements or waivers). Clearly, the program is meant to increase diversification. The website says that is it's mission. Please, if I am wrong, prove it and I will stand corrected. To qualify,

    4. I disagree with you. These countries are not mostly white. See the race/nationality statistics here:
    http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0855617.html
    Also, are you joking? You should also look at the total population of these nations as well. Clearly, China will have many more test takers than Albania. I disagree with your point here, and I believe the numbers do as well.

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