Widgets Magazine

Editorial: Eliminate need-aware admissions for internationals

Early October. For us it’s a time of sunny weather, Stanford football and the promise of a new year. For high school seniors around the world, though, it’s a time to start the stressful college application process. In recent years, Stanford has alleviated much of the financial stress inherent in the process by increasing the breadth of its financial aid program. But despite these gains, international applicants with financial need still face discrimination in the admissions process. While Stanford is need-blind for domestic applicants, international admissions is need-aware, meaning an international applicant’s financial status is factored into his admissions decision.

Last year, The Daily’s Editorial Board criticized this practice primarily on the issue of fairness; it is not fair to deny admission to qualified international applicants solely because of their financial status. But this Board recognizes that other concerns may trump this ideal. In admissions, what it often comes down to is benefits versus costs to the University as a whole. Accordingly, in examining the merits of a need-blind policy for internationals, we must ask how said policy would benefit the University.

In this case, the benefits are clear. Under the current need-aware system, qualified applicants who would otherwise be accepted are instead denied admission. Stanford thus misses out on their academic and extracurricular talent, instead having to settle for less qualified applicants who can afford the tuition. Furthermore, the need-aware policy discourages many internationals from applying to begin with. Stanford has developed a reputation for not accepting internationals with significant financial needs. Whether this reputation is deserved or not is beside the point. The reality is that Stanford loses international applicants to its need-blind peer schools–Harvard, Princeton, Yale, MIT, Dartmouth and Amherst. Although Stanford does admit exceptionally qualified international applicants in spite of financial need, it cannot admit those who do not apply. In short, continuation of the need-aware policy results in a less qualified applicant pool and a less qualified student body.

The need-aware policy also detracts from diversity on campus. With the current policy, students primarily interact with wealthy internationals. Often these students have relatively Western perspectives; many attended international schools, others travelled extensively, some have spent considerable time in the United States. Although wealthy international students do bring valuable perspectives to campus, there are more voices to be heard. In an increasingly globalized age, it is important for all students to encounter peers with upbringings radically different than their own. Many students have some conception of what it means to be poor in America. But how many have an idea of what it’s like to grow up in a rural Chinese village or a lower class area of Mumbai? This University is committed to the notion of education outside the classroom, and as such puts great effort into creating a student body populated with members from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds. This effort should not stop at the U.S. border.

Of course, there is always the cost of accepting more students with financial need. A need-blind policy for internationals would likely require a 10-percent increase in the financial aid budget. But with Stanford’s multi-billion dollar endowment, it is more a question of willpower and prioritizing than resources. Princeton University, for instance, was able to institute a need-blind policy despite enrolling more international students than Stanford, even while having only a slightly larger endowment.

As it stands, there are no immediate plans to change the current need-aware policy for internationals. That must change. A need-blind policy would result in a more diverse and talented student body, and it would confirm the University’s ideal of providing access to students who deserve admission, regardless of background.

About Editorial Board

Editorials represent the views of The Stanford Daily, an independent newspaper serving Stanford and the surrounding community. The Daily's Editorial Board consists of President and Editor-in-Chief Victor Xu '17, Executive Editor Will Ferrer '18, Managing Editor of Opinions Michael Gioia '17, Desk Editor of Opinions Jimmy Stephens '17, Senior Staff Writer Kylie Jue '17, Senior Staff Writer Olivia Hummer '17 and Senior Staff Writer Andrew Vogeley '17. To contact the Editorial Board chair, submit an op-ed (limited to 700 words) or submit a letter to the editor (limited to 500 words) at eic@stanforddaily.com.