October 15, 2015

EDITORIAL: Ensuring ‘Any Person’ Can Afford Cornell

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Throughout this semester, at least two students have publicized their inability to pay for a Cornell education and resorted to online crowdfunding platforms to pay off the balances owed to the University. Late last month, Jonah Okike-Hephzibah ’18, who identified himself as an undocumented student, started a GoFundMe page to avoid being removed from Cornell. Within days, he raised over $20,000. Days later, Nikolai Lumpkins ’16 followed suit and has since raised over $5,000.

The generosity of the Cornell community in response to fellow students’ needs is remarkable and demonstrative of how our capacious campus shrinks to help those in crisis or need. However, the fact that Okike-Hephzibah and Lumpkins needed to turn to crowdsourcing as a solution to their financial need is troublesome and causes us to wonder how many more students with similar situations walk among us each day. As described by John Lowry ’16, president of the Class of 2016, crowdfunding is not a long-term solution to solve the financial challenges facing some students across campus.

One of the issues highlighted by Okike-Hephzibah’s campaign is international student financial aid. Both domestic and international students are admitted to Cornell need-blind, meaning their ability to pay does not influence their admissions decision. However, only domestic students that demonstrate financial need are guaranteed a support package that will enable them to attend Cornell. While we understand that the University is under federal and state legal obligations to only award government-sponsored financial aid to citizens and legal residents of the United States, our growing international — and, possibly undocumented — student populations deserve the respect afforded to domestic students.

We recognize the issues surrounding financial aid are complex and will not be solved instantaneously. But as Cornell reevaluates its priorities with its next fundraising initiatives, we urge the University to consider ways to make the Office of Financial Aid more accessible to Cornellians in an effort to reduce misunderstandings and to continue to increase the available amount of aid to all students. When students continue to struggle to afford the costs of attending this University and to understand the inner workings of Day Hall, additional work must be done to bridge that gap.

  • Cornell Student

    “One of the issues highlighted by Okike-Hephzibah’s campaign is international student financial aid”

    Okike-Hephzibah is not an international student, he is an American. The university needs to acknowledge that undocumented Americans in this country as like any of us out there and deserve equal opportunity in this country. Cornell needs to be a leader in this, not sit by and blame the government for their refusal to grant them aid.

    • Abe ’14

      Or Cornell could admit citizens of this country and give aid to those who are required to pay income taxes and are here legally. Why can’t these “undocumented Americans,” who are old enough to apply to Cornell and succeed at an Ivy League institution, recognize their parents’ mistakes and apply for citizenship through the lawful process?

      And please don’t use the administrative efficiency argument if you choose to answer this question. People enter this country legally every single day.

  • George

    Undocumented students do not have the right to live in the United States much less receive financial aid to attend an expensive university. Universities that provide such aid should be prosecuted.

  • Forgetting Some Info

    You convientely forgot to include that both students who asked for money in return for absolutely nothing else TRANSFERED here. They made the choice to leave their current institution to come here. While it’s tragic that they are facing hardships here, ultimately they brought this upon themselves for not doing enough research to figure out that they couldn’t get the private loans to afford Cornell. Meanwhile, the illegal immigrant was living in California, where he could receive instate tuition at any of their fine public colleges under the Dream Act. They brought this onto themselves. It’s unfortunate, but it’s their fault.

  • Roscoe P. Coltrain

    I honestly can’t believe this is even an issue. Firstly, the idea that an ‘illegal’ undocumented person has taken an available seat over a citizen is not strange to the author. Or that providing money to legal citizens who are dropping out because of the financial strain via loans is not more important. Who are the people making these decisions? It seems to me their decision is zeal based; let’s over-try to help people mindlessly, and perhaps we’ll get noteriety for it. I think it best as a previous commenter said, have them work toward legal citizenship, do things right and legitamitly, and then get an equal and fair financial aid.