Michael Wenye Li/ Sun Assistant Photography Edito

Christopher Schott '18, who is working on a financial aid plan for international students in "extenuating circumstances," speaks at a S.A. meeting in October.

January 26, 2018

S.A. Members Plan to Provide Financial Assistance to International Students in ‘Extenuating Circumstances’

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Members of the Student Assembly have a plan in the works that would provide financial aid to international students in “extenuating circumstances” who do not already receive aid.

According to Christopher Schott ’18, international students liaison at-large, money would be drawn from an endowment fund to assist students in these circumstances. This fund would be subsidized by alumni donations, which in turn would be disbursed “to international students who need the money,” Schott said.

Schott described a situation in which an international student’s family cannot afford Cornell’s tuition anymore as a result of bankruptcy. The student could then “get additional funds from this endowment” that allow him or her to graduate.

The Student Assembly approved a resolution in October, asking the Office of Financial Aid to “expand the scope of leftover domestic financial aid funds and/or create a separate fund to support international students facing unanticipated financial need.”

International Students Union then continued work on the plan. President Martha Pollack “green lighted” the plan in December. According to Schott, Pollack contacted the office of Alumni Affairs, and students plan to meet Alumni Affairs next week to discuss alumni funding.

“Our main goal right now is to generate donor or alumni interest,” Schott said.

Schott said international students who are not granted financial aid after they are admitted to Cornell are not able to receive aid for the rest of their time at the University. He said domestic students, on the other hand, can receive loans for financial aid any academic year.

“International students don’t have that option, and the rationale for why that is is pretty much the same as why international students are subject to need-aware admissions, and that’s because there’s only a limited financial aid budget for international students,” Schott said.

In these circumstances, the Office of Financial Aid will not “give any extra money” to international students, according to Schott.

“They have a set budget for international students and then they just give it all out at the beginning of the year to all those students who are on financial aid,” Schott said. “So the only realistic option is to find donors, like alumni who have a lot of money to donate.”

Varun Devatha, executive vice president of the S.A., said in an interview with The Sun that the method of defining “extenuating circumstances” would “likely be left to the administration more so than us.”

When the S.A. was working on its resolution, he said the assembly defined it as, “anything that is an unexpected decrease in the ability to pay for tuition and room and board as well.”

Schott said the team working on this plan hopes to gain money by the end of the spring term.

“Regarding the time frame, we’re hoping to have a viable amount (like 500,000+) in the endowment by the end of the semester,” he wrote.

The exact size of the endowment has not been determined yet.

“We are looking to raise as much as possible for this endowment,” Schott said. “We still need to discuss the exact target amount with alumni affairs.”