University News

Foreign students to have annual aid reviews

International, transfer and RUE students who do not initiallly seek aid still cannot apply later on

By
Senior Staff Writer
Monday, March 17, 2014

International students’ financial aid packages will be reevaluated annually beginning with the class of 2018 as part of President Christina Paxson’s strategic plan. This policy will apply to international students who received University aid upon their admission, but transfer, Resumed Undergraduate Education and international students who do not apply for aid their first year at Brown will still not be able to reapply in subsequent years.

Currently, international students receive the same amount of University aid year to year, regardless of changes in financial circumstances.

The University realized this policy was “really problematic for international students” because financial situations can change drastically from year to year, said Director of Financial Aid Jim Tilton. But he added that extreme changes in need occur infrequently, with only “a few (cases) every year.”

Altered financial circumstances could result from changes in family members’ employment, natural disasters, sudden medical expenses or currency value swings, among other situations, Tilton said.

Drops in the value of students’ home countries’ currencies may also affect international students’ ability to pay college costs, said Lucie Lapovsky, principal for Lapovsky Consulting and an expert in higher education finance and governance.

Under the revised policy, all international students who seek assistance in a given year will undergo the reevaluation of their financial status, as domestic students do.

The new policy will still not treat international students exactly like domestic applicants, since the University will not allow foreign students who applied for aid but did not qualify for it to reapply, despite any changes in ability to pay.

Domestic students can receive need-based aid at any point, regardless of whether they applied for aid as first-year applicants.

But U.S. transfers or RUE students — who, like international students, are subject to need-aware admission — can have their aid packages reviewed annually only if they applied for aid for their first year at Brown, Tilton said.

This policy stems from concerns that some students subject to need-aware admission systems may decide not to apply for financial aid in order to increase their chances of getting an acceptance letter, Lapovsky said. She added that most universities follow an approach similar to the policy Brown is now phasing out — setting aid packages for international students at the outset of their time in college.

Despite the restrictions, some students said the revised policy for international students is fairer and more flexible than before.

Julmar Carcedo ’16, a Filipino student who receives a full scholarship from the University, said many international students struggle as a direct result of the current policy. Some students take on significant loans to pay for their education, while others take a leave of absence from Brown until they can afford to continue. Some students also petition for advanced standing so that they may graduate early, he said.

Both Carcedo and Burak Ceyhun Karaca ’17, who is from Turkey, said the current policy can make visa applications difficult for students with initially low financial aid packages or who receive no assistance during their first year.

Getting a visa is “easier if you’re on financial aid because you need to be able to prove that you have the funds to complete your education,” Karaca said.

He added that the existing system “is just assuming that my financial aid situation will not change,” which is far from certain for some students over a four-year period.

Alex Mechanick ’15, president of Brown for Financial Aid, called the new policy more “flexible,” adding that he worked on the reform while serving on the strategic planning Committee on Financial Aid. The program is “cheap,” he said, because it allows students whose need increases to receive more aid, but also decreases the packages of any students whose financial situations improve.

“If something wonderful changes for (one) family, it means their financial aid can be adjusted so someone else can come to Brown,” said Olivia Del Balzo ’14, president of the Brown International Scholarship Committee, an organization that raises funds for international students’ tuitions. “It’s much more effective to have a flexible system.”

Despite not allowing some students to apply for aid after their first year, the University continues to “work toward” universal need-blind admission, according to the strategic plan.

“One of the areas that the University has been paying close attention to … is the importance of being need-blind for all students,” Tilton said, adding that need-aware policies for international, RUE and transfer students are “something we continue to review.”

Until Paxson became president, BISC was at odds with administrators over the importance of going need-blind for all students, Del Balzo said. Now, due to encouragement in the strategic plan and a greater sense of shared goals with administrators, BISC’s “agenda has shifted,” she said.

With the administration’s increased commitment to need-blind admission, BISC can focus less on raising awareness of Brown’s need-aware admission policy toward international students and more on fundraising to help foreign applicants afford a Brown education, said Ignacio Semerene ’15, BISC vice president.

While the new reevaluation process for international students’ financial situations “is a small step on the way to becoming need-blind,” Mechanick said the University should continue to work toward accommodating all students’ financial needs.

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  • Pat Liao Chi

    The practice was stupid to begin with, and now they must put it in the 2018 strategic plan in order to change it? How about changing it now? These Brown deans are just plain stupid.

    • johnlonergan

      Hi Pat,

      Rather than complaining about Brown deans, why don’t you join us in pushing for change?

      John

      • ….

        By complaining!

      • Pat Liao Chi

        Is it possible to have changes without clearing out the Deans? They are very big obstacles to change. They are not bright, and they do not really care to do well in their responsibilities.

        • johnlonergan

          There are change agents even among the deans. Join our fight to bring meaningful change to Brown. Start by finding the change agents among the deans. Meet with them. Talk to them. Not all deans are bad.

  • johnlonergan

    The Strategic Plan does not address how to reach and teach foreign students. The antiquated idea of “let’s accept them, and have them fly to Providence and reside there for four or more years” is no longer relevant.

    At present, 13% of Brown’s applications are from abroad–i.e. 87% are from the US. 4% of the world’s population lives in the US. Just a conjecture–the US does not have an 87% share of the world’s best and brightest. Therefore, Brown is not reaching out and finding, teaching and/or accepting the world’s next Albert Einstein, Mahatma Gandhi, Helmut Schmidt, U Thant or Mother Teresa.

    Time to wake up, Brown. Our current “strategic plan” is neither “strategic” nor a “plan.” I and others have offered Christina Paxson several ideas about how to better reach out globally to students–and make money in the bargain.

    Christina Paxson, why aren’t you doing something more substantive about this?

    • !.!

      You’ve added a few new famous names to your list! Though frankly I fail to see accepting the next Mother Teresa to be a goal of any university.

      • johnlonergan

        Thank you for your incisive comment. I hope you don’t go to Brown–we don’t want to bring down the mean IQ!