February 28, 2001

Duke to Now Grant Aid to International Students

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Duke University’s Board of Trustees approved a plan yesterday to offer need-based financial aid to a limited number of undergraduates from abroad.

For the first time in Duke’s history, undergraduate international students will receive need-based financial aid beginning in the 2002-03 academic year, according to the Chronicle on Higher Education.

The program will be phased in over the next three years so that eventually 15 to 20 foreign students will benefit. This number is relatively small, however, in light of the near 500 international students that currently represent eight percent of the undergraduate population at Duke, according to Thomas C. Keane, director of financial aid and student employment at Cornell.

“It’s a nice addition to Duke’s programs, but we’ve been there for 20 years,” said Keane, citing that Cornell was providing aid for some international students even before he came to the University in the early 1980s.

Cornell currently has an international student enrollment figure of just less than 10 percent of the student body. Out of this group, a couple hundred are currently receiving financial aid, according to Keane.

Duke’s provost, Peter Lange, said the new move was merely an extension of the school’s dedication to “need blind” admissions and not an effort to stay competitive.

“We have a commitment to fully aiding the students who are admitted to Duke” solely based “on their quality,” he said on Monday, according to the Chronicle on Higher Education.

Despite a dedication to “need blind” admissions, Duke had previously discouraged applications from international students who could not pay the school’s hefty fees upfront.

Cornell also has a “need-blind” admissions policy and tries to ensure that every student who wants to can attend the University.

“We’re committed to need-blind admissions. We live by that and we will remain faithful,” said University President Hunter R. Rawlings III.

Canadian and Mexican students are included in this policy and receive the same amount of aid as U.S. students.

Cornell’s admission is not entirely “need blind” for most foreign students, however.

“We do have some aid conscious admissions [for international students]. We have to. We have lots of applicants. Almost every school is in this position,” Keane said, explaining that Cornell does not possess the financial resources to support such an undertaking.

Only four universities in the country — Harvard, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Yale and Princeton — are known to currently offer complete “need blind” admissions for international students.

The idea is relatively new. Yale just made a standing policy last November, whereas Princeton formally approved its plan last month along with a new policy that will replace all student loans with grants from the endowment fund.

“We’re nowhere in the ballpark to compete financially with any of those schools,” said Ronald G. Ehrenberg, the Irving M. Ives Professor of Industrial and Labor Relations and Economics. He added that Duke cannot compete either.

Duke’s new policy does not change the fact that international students will be excluded from its commitment to “need blind” admissions.

Duke’s decision comes in the wake of Harvard’s move last week to give all scholarship recipients an extra $2,000 in need-based assistance using endowment funds.

Ehrenberg said that the real question will be how Cornell responds to the recent financial aid pressures from its peer Ivy-League institutions.

Rawlings said that Cornell is unlikely to be influenced by these new policies.

“People now are tempted to do something in response to Princeton and Harvard’s financial aid policies, but Cornell is going to keep doing what we already do well rather than responding to this or that announcement,” Rawlings added.

Suggesting that an increase in foreign student aid would likely either decrease the aid American students receive or hike the tuition, Henrik N. Dullea ’61, vice president for University relations, said, “Our priorities are not changed. Lots of schools make different decisions to meet their specific resources.”

Since international students are not eligible for Pell-grants and most other sources of federal funding, they are significantly more expensive for the University to support, Dullea explained.

Students had mixed opinions about whether Cornell should respond to Duke’s new policy.

“The best that can happen is that Cornell evaluates its financial situation, but I wouldn’t want to see a tuition hike,” said Derrick Zandpour ’02, Student Assembly International Liaison-at-Large.

“Cornell really should give more support to its international students,” said Humphrey Lee ’04, recalling that several of his friends from his home in Hong Kong did not apply to Cornell this year because of the limited number of scholarships for international students.

While acknowledging that some foreign students may be put off by Cornell’s hefty price tag, Stefan Paulovic ’02, who is from Europe, maintained that this problem is typical for almost every other university in the country.

“Cornell can be pretty rough on international students, but so are most other American universities. I have an academic scholarship here, so for me personally it has worked out,” Paulovic said.

The high tuition numbers can be a deterrent even at schools that offer need-blind admission for international students, according to Paulovic, because most higher education in Europe is free.

How much Duke’s plan will cost and how students will be selected remains undecided at this point, according to Lange. Duke hopes, however, that the move will broaden the economic diversity of the international student population and put it more in line with that of the student body in general.

Cornell has a significantly larger proportion of its student body that comes from middle and lower class families than Duke, Keane explained, so the financial aid strategies are less comparable.

Archived article by Jennifer Roberts