As international high school seniors put the final touches on their essays and get their recommendations signed, expectations are high for aspiring students. But for many of the highly qualified students, the University will not be on the list of prospective colleges. While colleges like Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania are increasing grant-based financial aid to all students, the University of Michigan is continuing its policy of not offering any substantial financial assistance to international students. This stance will deprive our institution of qualified and needed applicants.
Being a public school funded by the state, it is understandable that the University aims to focus on prospective in-state students, trying to lure high-achieving applicants to the University with loans, scholarships and grants. But this policy comes at the expense of international students, a group that forms an integral part of our diverse student body. Given the University’s desire to raise academic standards, the complete absence of scholarships for international students is puzzling.
Like most other students, burgeoning fees and a lack of financial assistance are hitting international students hard. For international students, myself included, attending the University costs more than $40,000 a year, a price tag that forces them to cut corners in their college education and miss out on some of the college experience. This is a dilemma that should not arise. Financial aid may not be an option, owing to the obligatory preference given to in-state students, but offering merit-based scholarships is a realistic option the University is not considering. It is also an option that will attract even more qualified candidates to the University.
What appeals to international students hampered by financial need is liberal arts colleges like Carleton College, Macalester College and Oberlin College. The Starr Scholarship at Carleton offers qualified students from Asia full tuition, complete with two airplane tickets to the winners’ home countries. Similarly, the Kofi Annan International Scholarships at Macalester – merit-based yearly scholarships ranging from $1,000 to $35,000 a year – are awarded to almost 200 international students each year. And Oberlin, according to the school’s website, provides substantial financial assistance to more than 80 percent of its international student body.
But unlike these private institutions, the University has to deal with a state legislature, like these institutions, the University needs to do more than it is doing currently. If the University doesn’t act, it will be the one to lose out as qualified international students skip over it. There is undoubtedly a market for the best students. Selecting a college has morphed into a process where students look for the best savings, especially when the quality of the product is similar.
As international valedictorians and high achievers opt for colleges offering scholarships, it is the University that loses out. Diversity is one victim. Another victim is the quality of the education as better-qualified students choose not to apply to the University.
The Class of 2011, according to University President Mary Sue Coleman, was the most qualified yet. Offering merit-based scholarships to international students would only have made this good class even better.
-Emad Ansari is an LSA freshman and a member of the Daily’s editorial board.