Aid begun for foreign students

Amy Hamblin

For the first time, international students applying to Northwestern this fall can apply for and receive financial aid.

About 15 percent to 20 percent of international students applying regular decision will be awarded financial aid, said Rebecca Dixon, associate provost for enrollment. The university hopes to attract more students from other countries with the new policy, she added.

“There are very good students who we lose out on because they need financial aid,” Dixon said. “A lot of our competitors do provide financial aid for international students.”

This year will serve as a trial-run to determine students’ need and the cost, Dixon said. NU might offer more financial aid next year, she added, but it will depend on this year’s cost.

Applications requesting financial aid will be reviewed separately and admitted based on the amount of aid needed.

“We are need-blind in our admissions for American students,” Dixon said. “But we can’t make that promise with international students.”

The university might be forced to turn away well-qualified but financially-needy students who otherwise would have been accepted, Dixon said. Administrators will weigh such “negative ramifications” along with the positive ones when they decide whether to make this new policy permanent for upcoming years.

Hui Sin, a Singapore native, said NU might not see an increase in international applicants because cost isn’t the only factor for those overseas.

“With the culture in Singapore, the brand name of a school counts for a lot,” Sin said.

The Weinberg sophomore added that families often make huge sacrifices to send their child to school in the United States because it gives students employment opportunities. Many countries subsidize the educations of some students with the belief that U.S.-educated students will advance their countries’ economic development.

Administrators have been wary in the past to give aid because of the difficulty in calculating students’ need based on financial documentation that does not compare to the U.S. system.

Elizabeth Matthews, associate director of the International Office, said usually only the richest foreign students come to NU because applicants must show documentation that they can pay for the entire first year before their visa is approved.

“From our standpoint it looks like they can afford it,” Matthews said. “But I’m sure it’s a financial burden, especially because they can’t work off campus.”

Financial aid packages will consist of university grants and loans. Although work-study can’t be offered, Dixon said the university also will encourage students to find work on campus.

In addition to the cost of tuition, international students face higher traveling costs. Round-trip airplane tickets for many countries cost more than $1,000. International students also have to pay $100 visa application fees and another $100 fee to be entered into a database run by the Department of Homeland Security.

The cost skyrockets when converted into the currency and context of many foreign countries.

Carin Huang from Taiwan said she feels pressure from her father to graduate in three years to reduce costs. She said she applauds NU’s policy change but she is “bitter” that she won’t be able to receive financial assistance.

“(NU) should open up financial aid to everyone,” said Huang, a Weinberg sophomore .

She said she is searching for a job but has had little luck due to the restrictions placed on where international students can work.

Aware of the financial burden placed on some families, Dixon said she has been advocating financial aid for international students for several years. She added that universities are where perceptions shift and stereotypes are destroyed.

“We want to broaden the diversity of the student body,” she said. “Let’s face it, the U.S. can’t be isolationist.”

Reach Amy Hamblin at [email protected].

Quick facts:

 Admissions for international applicants won’t be “need blind.”

 15 to 20 percent of international applicants will be awarded financial aid.

 Many other colleges already offer aid to international students