University News

Eyeing international students, U. ups aid

By
Contributing Writer
Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Correction appended.

For many of the world’s best and brightest college applicants, the choice of which elite U.S. college to attend often comes down to one factor — who can offer the highest bid. In a sign that Brown is trying harder to compete with its Ivy League peers in recruiting international students, the September update of the Plan for Academic Enrichment highlighted a 133 percent increase in financial aid for international students over the last four years. International students received $7.7 million last year compared to $3.3 million in the 2007-08 academic year.

International students will receive $8.4 million in aid this year, an additional increase of 9 percent, said James Tilton, director of financial aid.

The increase followed the Corporation’s approval in October 2006 of a 30 percent raise in financial aid for international students and changes in financial aid policy for all students during the 2008-09 school year, he said. The centerpiece of these recent reforms was an exemption from paying tuition for families making less than $60,000 with under $100,000 in assets.

The overall number of international students receiving financial aid increased by 84 percent in the last five years, from 115 to 212, Tilton said. But the share of international students receiving financial aid still stands at only 10 percent, he said. In addition, while need-blind admission for U.S. applicants has been in place at the University since 2003, the policy does not apply to international students.

Any discussion about implementing need-bind admission for international students would be “a larger conversation” involving Dean of the College Katherine Bergeron, Dean of Admission James Miller ’73 and other senior administrators, Tilton said. According to a poll conducted by the Herald in April, nearly 40 percent of students thought increasing financial aid should be the University’s highest priority.

Still, the recent changes have made a positive difference for some international students.

“It’s definitely made it a lot more possible for them to be here,” said Indu Voruganti ’12, a Canada native who participated as a freshman in the International Mentoring Program, which assists international students with the college transition process. “A lot of progress has been made.”

Still, expanding need-blind admission “would make Brown a lot more attractive to international students,” Voruganti said, adding that she knows many students from abroad who depend on financial aid to attend Brown.

Mohsan Elahi ’14, an ambassador in the International Scholarship Committee’s Ambassadorship Program who has represented Brown at college fairs in his native Pakistan, agreed that the lack of need-blind admission is a major problem for recruiting interested candidates.

“Not being need-blind really deters students from applying,” he said. “If Brown wants to create a university with people who are more qualified, the only way they will achieve that is expanding financial aid.”

Elahi said one of the first questions he gets from most prospective applicants at college fairs is about financial aid. When he explains Brown’s policy, students often head for nearby tables that tout need-blind admission for all applicants.

Many international students are forced to rely on scholarships and loans instead of financial aid, said Minoo Ramanathan ’11, the Departmental Undergraduate Group and TA Conference coordinator at the Curricular Resource Center.

“As an international student, I knew the opportunities for aid were very limited,” said Ramanathan, who is from India. “I constantly had to be reminded that it was a privilege for me to be here.”

Pathikrit Bhattacharyya ’14 echoed his fellow international students’ view that Brown still trails some of its peers in financial aid, but said he felt the administration had made progress.

“A lot of the other Ivies have better financial programs for international students, but I think Brown is catching up,” Bhattacharyya said. “The University is moving in the right direction.”

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Mohsan Elahi ’14 is a member of the Brown International Scholarship Committee. In fact, he is an ambassador in the group’s Ambassadorship Program, which represents Brown at foreign high schools, but he is not a member of the group. The Herald regrets the error.

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