Financial Aid, International Office unaffected by Trump “public charge” rule announcement


Oliver Contreras/Sipa USA/TNS

President Donald Trump delivers remarks at the & to America & ceremony in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., on July 4, 2019.

Daisy Conant, Reporter

While higher education groups are concerned that the Trump Administration’s new “public charge” rule will negatively affect immigrant and international students on American campuses, Northwestern’s Office of Financial Aid and the Office of International Student and Scholar Services both note it has had no impact on their practices and procedures.

The rule, which was announced August 13 and is scheduled to go into effect on October 15, permits the Department of Homeland Security to deny applications for admission to the U.S. or for the adjustment of immigration status if the individual is likely to become a “public charge” to society.

In this context, a “public charge” is defined as someone who has used public benefits like Section 8 housing vouchers, food stamps or Medicaid, potentially forcing students who are already in the U.S. to have to choose between forgoing services they need and facing deportation.

The rule also identifies factors officials will use to judge whether immigrants are likely to require public assistance in the future — including age, health, household size, income, assets and debts, as well as education and skill levels.

Phil Asbury, the University director of financial aid, said that as of now, the effects will fall outside the domain of the office — the rule does not include Pell Grants or other forms of educational assistance among the benefits that immigrants will be penalized for receiving. He added that “if the talk continues and becomes more serious, there might be repercussions down the road.”

There has also been unease that the rule will deter or prevent international students and scholars on nonimmigrant visas from studying in the U.S., as it allows the State Department to deny applications for visas under similar taxpayer-burden conditions.

Theresa Johnson, the interim director of OISS, said that she doesn’t see the public charge rule impacting students that are here under sponsorship by Northwestern, as they have already had to provide evidence of their capability to fund their education in order to obtain a visa. However, she said the optics paint the country as unwelcoming to prospective, foreign-born students.

“It sounds like we’re saying foreign nationals don’t deserve to get help if they need it,” Johnson said. “It encourages and validates people that believe the rumors that foreign nationals are taking all these public benefits and costing us all this money, even though that’s not the case.”

She added that these students do contribute to society financially, as they’re paying for tuition, rent, food and other amenities on their respective campuses.

Ethan Weinberger, a Canadian student here on an F-1 visa, echoed Johnson’s sentiment. The Weinberg sophomore said that as an international student, the rule goes against a drive that many of his foreign peers share — to seek the best education they can, no matter where in the world that takes them.

“It turns immigration into something it’s not,” Weinberger said. “Immigration should be about opportunity and coming to the country for a better life. A policy like this tells people that immigration to the United States is about how much money you have.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @daisy_conant