Michael Wenye Li / Sun Assistant Photography Editor

The Assembly passed a resolution on Thursday night that urged the Office of Financial Aid to administer additional financial aid to students facing extenuating circumstances.

October 26, 2017

Student Assembly Urges Cornell to Allow International Students to Access Emergency Aid

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Student Assembly on Thursday urged Cornell to make emergency funds available to international students facing extenuating financial situations after they are admitted to the University.

Cornell should do this, S.A. members said, either by making a pool of money currently only available to domestic students available to international students as well, or to create a separate, alumni-funded pool of money for those students.

Oyindamola Adisa ’17, a student from Nigeria, said in a letter to S.A. that her father died of cancer months after she had been accepted to Cornell, and that his death had nearly kept her from attending the University.

Adisa said that when she received a form for international students from Cornell, the University noted that it would not provide financial aid for her during her four years at the school.

Christopher Schott ’18, the international student representative, said it is impossible for international students to apply for financial aid at Cornell if they were not awarded aid when they first applied.

This is especially impactful, he said, because international students are the only group of students whose financial need is taken into account during the application process, meaning they may be dissuaded from applying for financial aid in the first place, fearing that it makes them less likely to be admitted.

There are international students “who can barely afford to go to Cornell, and they might want to apply for financial aid, but [they] are not [applying],” Schott said. “If international students are not awarded financial aid upon their initial Cornell application, they can never apply again.”

The Assembly passed a resolution on Thursday night, co-sponsored by Schott and Varun Devatha ’19, the executive vice president, that urged the Office of Financial Aid to administer additional financial aid to students “facing extenuating circumstances, regardless of citizenship.”

The resolution also urged the Office of Financial Aid, the Office of Alumni Affairs and Development, and several administrators, including President Martha Pollack, to create an “Emergency Aid Pool” of money for international students above what is currently budgeted for international financial aid. The assembly said this could be paid for either by encouraging alumni donations or by drawing on “leftover resources from domestic financial aid.”

Every representative voted in favor of the resolution except for the president, who abstained and only votes to break a tie.

Adisa, in her statement to S.A., said she was filled with “sadness” when she learned that she could never apply for aid from Cornell during her four years at the institution.

She said she also realized “that Cornell was just another capitalist institution [that] did not care about the well-being of international students.”

“I was heartbroken, of course and I felt like I had been dismissed without any helpful alternative,” she said, later adding: “Cornell needs to do better for its international student population.”

Domestic students facing extenuating financial situations, Schott said, can apply for loans at first and then have an opportunity to apply for more aid in the next aid cycle.

“For international students, this is not the case,” he said. “The total financial aid budget for international students is capped and does not accommodate for any fluctuations.”

From meetings with administrators and staff members, Schott said, he learned that the amount of international students who might need the additional, emergency aid is only in the single digits.

“If Cornell can accommodate for the needs of domestic students, why can’t it do the same for international students?” Schott said. “I see no reason why Cornell cannot strive to become the world’s best university for international students from all socioeconomic backgrounds.”

Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs ’19 contributed reporting to this article.