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February 16, 2017

Student Representatives Call on Ivies to Waive Fees for First-Generation Applicants

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Student representatives of 11 colleges — including Cornell and the seven other Ivy League schools — called on their universities Wednesday to automatically waive application fees for first-generation and low-income applicants.

Leaders of student governing bodies from all Ivy League schools, as well as Northwestern University, Stanford University and the University of Chicago, endorsed the “No Apologies Initiative” led by Viet Nguyen, president of the Brown Undergraduate Council of Students. The initiative urges schools to begin waiving the fees next year.

Nguyen, in the three-page initiative, wrote of the “humiliating” process of emailing colleges at the last minute explaining that he could not pay the application fee because of the many other fees associated with applications, including submitting test scores and Advanced Placement credit.

“My emails were filled with apologies,” Nguyen wrote. “I was apologizing for the inconvenience I was causing. I was apologizing for how embarrassed I felt. I was apologizing for being poor.”

All of the colleges ultimately waived the fees, Nguyen said, but he said the process was “convoluted” and “unnecessary.”

“The guilt and shame alone almost stopped me from going to college,” he said.

Cornell requires first-year and transfer applicants to pay an $80 application fee but also offers several ways for pro­spective students to have the fee waived. Cornell applicants can submit a fee waiver re­quest using any of several different forms or by submitting a letter from a guidance counselor or social service representative stating the fee would cause financial hardship.

Student Assembly Presi­dent Jordan Berger ’17 said she signed the initiative because she wants to ease the burden for students who are already spending time and effort to submit applications to prestigious universities.

“It’s really important because of the ‘any person […] any study’ mission of Cornell that we shouldn’t have any barrier to applying,” Berger told The Sun. “A student shouldn’t feel held back because of their socioeconomic status.”

S.A. Executive Vice President Matthew Indimine ’18 said he discussed the initiative with Nguyen earlier in February when the two roomed together at the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates in Bogotá, Colombia.

“People often praise our university and our peer universities — all the Ivies — for doing these ‘amazing’ things for people of all backgrounds,” Indimine said. “But they’re nowhere near acceptable as far as accessibility.”

Indimine has been working with Paola Muñoz ’17, president of the Cornell First Generation Student Union, and Nguyen over the last few weeks to strategize around the initiative. Indimine said he hopes the coordination of students at the 11 schools will put pressure on universities to comply with the request. No meetings have yet been scheduled between administrators, S.A. or the First Generation Student Union, but Indimine said he hopes the groups will be able to meet within the coming weeks.

If one school responds favorably, Berger said, it could create a domino effect of other institutions automatically waiving their application fees for first generation and low-income students.

“All of a sudden you would have students who are incentivized to apply to other schools instead of our school if other schools are adopting these policies,” Berger said.

Bowdoin College and Trinity College waived their application fees in 2015 for students who would, if accepted, be the first in their family to attend college, Nguyen said.

15 thoughts on “Student Representatives Call on Ivies to Waive Fees for First-Generation Applicants

  1. An Ivy League education is not a right. My parents as first generation Americans went to public universities which were in their poor family’s budgets. Their hard work and success allowed me to go to Cornell by takings loans and making tremendous sacrifices.
    If the fee is too much , there are public colleges with no fees. As it is , I have paid full tuition for my children subsidize aid to others. Where does this end?
    Wonder if Mercedes dealers get asked for similar accommodations! (Nothing is wrong with a Kia if that’s what you can afford!)

    • They’re not calling for the elimination of tuition. They are calling for the elimination of the application fee for a certain group of students. This could only benefit the university, since it would increase the pool of possible applicants, thus allowing the university to be more selective in choosing the best from the applicant pool. As it stands, many students who are likely more intelligent and deserving than students from socioeconomically advantageous backgrounds are not even considered for entry, since the application fee prevents them from even applying.

      • If the fees are waved, where do you think the shortfall will come from?
        If you can’t afford something, find a product in your budget! City and state supprted schools have little or no fees. Indigent students are free to apply there! ( our taxes already subsidize that!).

        • WaIved, sir.

          Cornell (like all universities that have tax-exempt status) is supposed to use the lion’s share of its revenues to support world-class education and research, attracting students who are the best fit for the university based on merit and promise, not wealth. The quality of the students directly relates to the quality of the education for everyone, because it attracts other great students and great professors and boosts the reputation of the university as students go on to do amazing things and give their education all the credit (see Ahmed Ahmed for one example).

          Being from a richer family doesn’t make you quality, as in smart or deserving, though it does help to get past the multitude of cash barriers in place to keep things prohibitively and artificially “elite.”

          Waiving fees for first-generation students seems reasonable. What are you afraid of, Mr Givetoomuch? That poorer students might then be able to apply and beat out richer students based on the strength of their applications? God, I hope so.

        • You are demonstrating (for the second time, by the way) that you still have not read the article. As the article states, these fees are already always waived for socioeconomically disadvantaged students, when they complete a series of bureaucratic hurdles. The point of this proposed policy is to skip the bureaucratic hurdles for first-generation students. Since most first-gen students are from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds, these bureaucratic hurdles are a waste of time.

          Your concerns are clearly not motivated by costs or “shortfalls” or whatever you’re droning on about. You want Poors like me to stay in our place.

        • That isn’t what I said. I said that there are many students who did not apply to Cornell because of the application fee who are likely more intelligent than the socioeconomically advantaged students admitted at Cornell. That is not equivalent to the claim that poor students are more intelligent than rich students. Go take a class that will teach you about scope and quantifiers.

          • Where is the basis for your assertion? Totally pulled out of your ass, especially since these fees are routinely waived. And what makes poor students “more deserving.” Does the fact that a student’s parents did not go to college make that student more deserving? If you believe that, then I submit you are the one that needs more education.

        • You asserted this. I merely pointed out that being rich doesn’t make you smart or deserving, and that with an economic hurdle out of the way, poorer students may very well beat out richer students based on merit, simply because they can afford to apply.

          Poor people do not have access to the same opportunities to showcase their relevant merits that rich people can pay for, and are left behind unfairly for that reason. This is an assertion supported by data.

          • And city and state schools? Ivy League
            Education is not a right bestowed by any. Institution . State supported universities could be the entry level for financially strapped individuals. That’s not prejudice, that’s practicality

          • Being poor does not make you smart or deserving. And exactly why would poorer students beat out wealthier students on merit? Since the application fees are routinely waived, your argument has no merit. Not that I would expect it to.

  2. “My emails were filled with apologies,” Nguyen wrote. “I was apologizing for the inconvenience I was causing. I was apologizing for how embarrassed I felt. I was apologizing for being poor.”

    This poor fellow is pathetic.

    Reminds me of that scene in “The God Father” – You Can Act Like A Man!

  3. I would be shocked if it happens. If they waive processing fees automatically for first generation and poor college students, expect the Ivies to get applications from hundreds of thousands of students? The problem? It costs money to process applications, and that’s why you pay application fees in the first place. One reason why the Ivy League has such good networking opportunities because of the affluence. Flood it with poor people, you reduce the value of the network. Also the university is paid for by the wealthy donors and alumni who contribute to the university.

    Basically, application fees and high prices scare of a number of undesirables.

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