By Elena Shao
On Monday, the Coalition for International Students’ Financial Aid released a petition calling on the University to prioritize need-blind admissions for international applicants. The petition, which garnered over 900 signatures in two days, aims to push this initiative forward in light of Stanford’s long-range planning efforts.
Currently, Stanford’s need-blind admissions only applies to students within the United States.
“Think of all the people who decided not to apply to Stanford because of the need-based admissions policy,” said Hamzeh Daoud, ’20, one of the authors of the petition. “We lost a whole lot of brilliant minds to peer institutions in this country that do offer need-blind admissions.”
At present, 27 U.S. colleges and universities including Harvard, Yale, Princeton and MIT offer need-blind admissions for international students.
According to Daoud, the main reason Stanford does not yet have need-blind admissions is due to a shortage of resources.
“It’s understandable that although we have a very large endowment, that we still need money to have need-blind admissions,” he said.
In a Tuesday campus community meeting on long-range planning, President Marc Tessier-Lavigne expressed similar sentiments.
“It’s not a question of whether we should be need-blind,” Tessier-Lavigne said. “It’s a question of when we’ll get there. Hundreds of millions of dollars … are needed to make it possible for us to go need-blind internationally.”
In an email statement to The Daily, University spokesperson E.J. Miranda drew attention to the number of admitted international students who do receive financial aid.
“Although the international admissions process is need-aware, some international students who are admitted do receive financial aid, and their numbers have been growing in recent years,” he wrote.
He noted that the average scholarship and grant package for international undergraduates receiving aid is $60,968, compared to an average of $48,039 for all Stanford undergraduates receiving aid.
Members of the Coalition disagreed, arguing that needs-blind admissions for international applicants is possible because Stanford’s endowment is one of the largest in the country.
“In terms of endowment per student, Stanford is the richest school in the U.S. that continues to take [international] applicants’ financial need into account when evaluating candidates,” Michal Skreta ’21, petition co-author and an international student from Poland, wrote in an email to The Daily.
Coalition members added that they are optimistic that there is room for change given Stanford’s long-range planning initiative, a project that seeks to solicit community input on the University’s future.
Celia Chen ’20, an international student from China who also helped co-author the petition, expressed her hope that Stanford consider the issue as part of the project.
“If we can make some noise about international students’ financial aid issues and let [the administrators] realize the importance of this issue, we could potentially include need-blind admissions as a priority in this vision,” she wrote in an email to The Daily.
Daoud added that student body involvement will play a significant role in the University’s consideration of need-blind aid for international applicants.
“When we talked to Marc Tessier-Lavigne [and other] administrators on campus, they told us, ‘We need to see that people care about this,’” Daoud said. “So we’re going to show him that you need to do better in getting donors, and you need to understand that we want this and that everyone else in the student body wants this, regardless [if they are] domestic or international.”
In the short term, the group is concerned with current international students who are struggling financially but are ineligible for financial aid because they indicated that they did not need financial aid when they first applied to Stanford.
According to the Stanford Undergraduate Admissions website, these students are “not eligible to apply for financial aid at any time during their four years at Stanford.”
Skreta said that many of his Polish peers who applied to the University “made a strategic choice to not apply for aid in order to increase their admissions chances, even though they knew they would struggle without financial support.”
The Coalition plans to send the write-up of the petition, along with the personal narratives many international students have sent in, to the offices of Tessier-Lavigne and Richard Shaw, dean of undergraduate admissions and financial aid, with the hopes of incorporating their goals into the long-range planning process. Next year, they hope to create a subcommittee within the coalition that will focus on issues related to financial aid for international students.
“I think people should know that this doesn’t happen overnight,” Daoud said. “The amount of money that goes into this, the amount of hard work that needs to be done is a lot, but we’re doing it, and this is how it starts.”
Contact Elena Shao at eshao98 ‘at’ stanford.edu.