The University will automatically waive application fees for low-income students applying to Brown starting in fall 2017, the University announced April 14.
The policy resulted from a proposal submitted at the end of March by Viet Nguyen ’17, president of the Undergraduate Council of Students and director of 1vyG, a first-generation student organization, and Alexis Rodriguez-Camacho ’18, director of programs and initiatives at 1vyG, said Dean of Admission Logan Powell.
Previously, students demanding a fee waiver had to request one through the Common Application or directly contact Brown. The new policy states that Brown will — without any work on the part of the student — now waive the $75 application fee.
Students should not be in the position where they must ask for a fee waiver, Powell said.
The policy also expands fee waivers to an extended definition of low-income students, including those who are eligible but not necessarily involved in certain low-income government programs. The policy specifically targets those who are eligible for the National School Lunch Program — any federal, state or local programs that aid low-income students and any community-based or college access organizations, Powell said.
In February, Nguyen introduced the No Apologies Initiative, which urges universities to waive application fees for low-income students. In a letter announcing the initiative, Nguyen described his own experience applying as a low-income student, detailing the financial difficulties and complexities of the process. The letter was signed by leaders of student governments and first-generation, low-income organizations from over 10 universities.
Building on the No Apologies Initiative, Nguyen and Rodriguez-Camacho drafted a proposal in which they provided a plan for the University to grant more fee waivers. They submitted the proposal to Provost Richard Locke at the end of March.
The proposal included various statistics that illustrated the necessity of making the application process more accessible to low-income students. Nguyen cited a study that revealed Brown, along with four other universities in the Ivy League, to have more students from the top 1 percent of the income scale than the bottom 60 percent.
The proposal “is not just an anecdote,” Nguyen said. “This is a well-researched topic that has scientific backing.”
Both Nguyen and Rodriguez-Camacho were surprised by how quickly the proposal became official University policy. After initial meetings at the end of March and beginning of April, Powell brought the proposal forward to President Chistina Paxson P’19 for approval, Powell said.
Looking forward, Nguyen hopes to adapt the proposal for use at other schools.
“We’re now tailoring it to make it a lot more generic, so that students can take that — and maybe add some stuff specifically about their schools — but have the original research and scientific backing already set for them,” said Nguyen.
At the University level, Powell now aims to communicate the new policy to prospective students. “We need to let people know that this is an opportunity for them,” he said.
Powell credited Nguyen and Rodriguez-Camacho with initiating the plan. “They identified an important issue, and the fact that they provided such great leadership on this from the very beginning is what allowed us to make this happen so quickly,” he said.