Foreign Students Face Limited Aid
Published: Friday, January 25, 2013
Updated: Friday, January 25, 2013 02:01
The story of Alexis Garau (COL ’15) is like that of many undergraduates at Georgetown: Without the aid she receives from the university’s endowment and the federal government, she would not have been able to afford a Georgetown education.
But Garau, an international student from Italy who was born in New York City and has dual citizenship, lucked out in her birthplace; with only a foreign passport, she would not have access to a single cent of the financial aid that she receives as an American citizen.
While American students have a wide range of options to fund their educations, international students must search for aid within tight legal restrictions.
One important source, federal grants and funding — which account for just under 10 percent of Georgetown’s financial aid — are not available to international students at all.
“The federal government does not provide any funding for non-U.S. residents,” said Scott Flemming, Georgetown’s vice president for federal relations. “You can imagine that it would be very hard to get a measure passed in Congress for funding for international students when there are still arguments over funding for United States residents. That measure just wouldn’t pass.”
Fleming added that, in addition to traditional forms of federal funding, such as Pell grants and the Federal Work-Study program, the government also finances scholarships for international studies, all of which are also allocated specifically to U.S. students.
Stipulations on student visas can also prohibit international students from holding off-campus jobs except in certain cases of economic difficulties.
According to Katherine Bellows, executive director of the Office of International Programs, this is because hiring international students involves higher costs than employing American citizens.
“International students can get on-campus jobs, but they are not eligible for the Federal Work-Study program, so it costs each department much more to hire an international than a domestic student,” Bellows said.
Minjung Kang (SFS ’15), an international student from Korea, said the lack of on-campus jobs for international students is problematic.
“I know a few international students who have on-campus jobs with no problem but I definitely think that work-study students are given an advantage in some jobs and that causes a problem,” Kang said.
While international undergraduate students studying at Georgetown can receive some scholarship money from the university, such resources are “very limited,” according to the Office of Student Financial Services’ website.
The website lists a sole scholarship for foreign applicants, the Georgetown Pedro Arrupe, S.J., Scholarship for Peace, which is targeted at “international students from war-torn areas of the world with demonstrated financial need.”
Director of Media Relations Rachel Pugh noted that foreign applicants often seek funds from scholarship programs unaffiliated with the university.
“Some international students are able to get financial support for their educational expenses from resources other than the university, such as grants from their home country,” Pugh wrote in an email.
Pugh added that the university provides the Bou Family Foundation Grant, which gives two $2500 awards to second year graduate students hailing from abroad who are interested in community service.
However, other university offers for foreign students are few and far between.
Private foundations that support international undergraduates are usually allotted to specific geographic locations or nationalities. AMIDEAST supports students from the Middle East and North Africa while LASPAU, Academic and Professional Programs for the Americas, supports students from the Caribbean and Latin America.
“You have to be from a certain country or a certain nationality to be eligible for those scholarships,” Kang said. “The point is to have diversity, so having scholarships that are so specific doesn’t help.”
Although he regretted this phenomenon of regional selectivity, Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Charles Deacon said that such scholarships make sense.
“Of course we would prefer a general fund, but some donations are made with the stipulation that they are used to support students from specific countries,” Deacon said. “You also have to realize the issue from their point of view — they want to ensure that students from their country are recruited.”
Despite the university’s limited ability to offer financial aid to international students, Deacon stressed that Georgetown’s need-blind admissions policy still applies to all students, regardless of nationality.
“Some institutions might ask why they should admit students on a need-blind policy if they cannot afford to support them fully,” Deacon said. “We admit international students regardless of financial need and try to help them figure out their finances after they are admitted.”
Nonetheless, Bellows said that the lack of funding for international students compromises the diversity of the intellectual and socioeconomic makeup of the student body.
“There are many brilliant international students who apply and are accepted to Georgetown from poor families in developing countries but unfortunately cannot afford to come to Georgetown,” Bellows said.