International Club pushes for need-blind admissions

The College’s International Club, College Council (CC) and Minority Coalition (MinCo) are currently working to reinstate need-blind admissions for all applicants to the College.

Between 2001 and 2010, the College was fully need-blind. In 2010, following the 2008 financial crisis, the College became need-aware for international applicants. Since the financial crisis, the amount of aid provided to international students has declined as well as the proportion of international students who receive aid. In 2009, the College provided $6.3 million in aid to international students and now provides $4.6 million, according to data from Courtney Wade, institutional research assisitant. Currently, 59 percent of international students receive aid, compared to the 84 percent of international students who received aid in 2009.

“International Club believes that this policy is in disagreement with the College’s commitment to equality of opportunity, which should not be contingent upon a student’s nationality or resident status,” said Kristian Viggo Hoff Lunke ’16, president of the         International Club.

“That being said, Williams is extremely generous to its international students,” Lunke said. “They receive more aid on average than the student body as a whole ($52,000 versus $44,000) and the proportion who receive aid is also greater (59 percent versus 50 percent).”

“An unfortunate corollary of this is that international students are expensive and as such lend themselves to budget cuts,” Lunke said. “The same is presumably true of other minorities on campus, but with international students we can easily make a distinction based on visa status and use that as a basis for policy decisions. That doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do; as demonstrated above, need-awareness not only disagrees with our values as an institution but also influences to a certain degree the make-up of the student body.”

Lunke pointed out that a number of our peer schools, including Amherst, have a need-blind policy for international students.

The three clubs are now working together to reinstate need blind admissions for international students at the College. At their Nov. 12 meeting, CC unanimously voted to draft a resolution in favor of reinstating fully need-blind admissions. CC members plan to vote on the resolution at today’s meeting.

MinCo also unanimously voted to co-sponsor the resolution and may publish its own statement later this semester. International Club published an op-ed in the Record last month and plans to continue to host events “that highlight the presence of international students on campus and the invaluable cultural contribution they make to our community,” Lunke said.

If CC passes the resolution with a simple majority, it will be published as an act of CC.

“Resolutions are recommendations made by College Council on behalf of the student body, usually to the administration (though there have been resolutions related to the structure of CC, to CC initiatives, or other goals),” Erica Moszkowski ’15, CC co-president said. “They are non-binding when directed towards the administration but College Council or the co-sponsors of a resolution can use the resolution as a lobbying tool. If the resolution passes, CC will collaborate with the co-sponsors to determine what the appropriate next steps for them will be. Most likely this will involve publicizing the issue to the student body and meeting with senior staff members.”

Despite the surge of support, reception is mixed among some international students over this complicated issue.

“I understand the counter-argument why it shouldn’t be need-blind for international students because American students should have priority for an education in their own country,” explained Christa Rousseva ’18, an international student from the United Kingdom.

“[Need-blind admissions policy] is necessary,” Amina Awad ’18 said. “It makes it so hard for international students to get accepted if they are on financial aid if it’s not need-blind and it sets us in a completely different category from the rest of the students applying.”

Director of Admissions Richard Nesbitt says that the Office of Admissions actually admits a portion of international students need-blind, but is unable to do so for all internationals due to budgetary constraints.

“When you think about need-sensitive – we’re aware that there’s a limit to the budget, which is something roughly in the range of 1.2 million dollars a year, so for the first 50 or so students who we admit of international students, we admit them need-blind,” Nesbitt said. “We assume that we’re going to get roughly a 45 to 50 percent yield on those students and we also assume that their need is going to be very high because a lot of the students are from Africa, or Vietnam, or Bangladesh, or different developing countries.”

“Then, after that, we’re looking at students who are not applying for aid and looking for the most compelling students in that group – and in fact, because our pool has grown so much since the mid ’80s [when Nesbitt began working at Williams] we actually have quite a few students who are very compelling that are not applying for aid,” Nesbitt said. “So we’re able to sort of mix and match so roughly 40 percent of the students that come will be full paying students and 60 percent or so will be on aid.”

“We’re pretty excited about the international students who come to Williams,” Nesbitt said. “It is true that we don’t have as high of a percentage of students on aid as we did when we were entirely need-blind but we still get some wonderful students who represent a lot of different perspectives and cultures.”