Editorial: NU should seriously consider giving financial aid to illegal immigrant students

The Daily Northwestern

As the Northwestern admissions office continues its initiatives to boost minority enrollment and increase diversity on our campus – noble goals The Daily wholeheartedly endorses – we ask the University to consider a prospective student pool has traditionally been mostly ignored in the financial aid game: international students, including illegal immigrant students.

A special report that ran in The Daily on Tuesday (“Undocumented at NU” 2/8/11) called attention to the at least three illegal immigrant students currently attending NU and the financial plight preventing others from attending. Under current University policy, illegal immigrant students are considered international. Administrators said NU allocates 1.5 percent of its annual financial aid budget for international students, and admission for these students is done on a “need-aware” basis, essentially meaning wealthier students are more likely to be accepted. Because of the unfortunate socioeconomics of illegal immigrants, the policy in its current form makes it nearly impossible for undocumented students to receive aid.

We think that is unfortunate. Increasing the number of illegal immigrant students at NU is beneficial on almost every front. It would increase the racial and socioeconomic diversity of the NU student body, which has been shown in empirical research to boost learning outcomes for students. Therefore, The Daily supports the principle of need-blind admissions for international and illegal immigrant students,

At the same time, we understand there is no short-term fiscal solution to feasibly allow this. Need-blind admissions for international students is extremely expensive, and only a handful of universities have the robust endowments necessary for this policy ($6 billion is nothing to scoff at, but it is not the $27.6 billion that Harvard commands). Administrators’ estimates about the cost of changing the policy have ranged from “insanely expensive” to “prohibitively expensive.”

Still, The Daily urges the administration to keep this issue on the radar and begin serious conversations about increasing financial aid options for international and illegal immigrant students in the future.

In recent years, the administration has launched programs to increase financial aid for needy domestic students, including the Good Neighbor, Great University program. We have strongly supported those policies. We believe otherwise-qualified illegal immigrant students deserve the same support.

Of course, the most influential change is outside the University’s power. Changing the legal status of illegal immigrant students, many of whom who have spent many years in the U.S., must be dealt with in the federal legislatures through the passage of bills. The prominent one right now is the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, which NU administrators strongly supports.

We encourage the administration to continue lobbying for the DREAM Act and other legislation that would allow undocumented students to be eligible for financial aid so all young people in this country will be able to pursue their dreams.