See All Columns
week's question from
Jake Nichols, Grand Rapids, MI
What financial aid is available for international students?
Depending on the institution, some assistance may be available
Students who do not hold US citizenship or are not permanent residents of the US are not eligible for federal financial assistance. Policies about institutional financial assistance will vary by institution - some will award only merit/scholarship assistance; others will award some assistance based on a family's need; others will have a competitive application process for full or half-tuition scholarships. It will be important to be in contact with specific colleges of interest to determine each institution's availability of aid for non-US citizens. Note: US citizens living in a country other than the US are fully eligible for federal assistance - citizenship is the determining factor, not country of residence.
Financial Aid for International Students? Well, It Really Depends
Unfortunately, there is no one answer to this question. Whether financial aid is available to international students varies from college to college. Students should check college websites and/or contact schools directly. All international students should complete the International version of the CSS Profile, a College Board financial aid form. To determine if a college even accepts this form, students can consult an up-to-date College Board list offered at http://bit.ly/sAGD5P. Applicants should also know that many colleges require a Certification of Finances form for international students, that asks questions about an applicant’s ability to pay his/her college expenses.
If You Look For It, You Can Find It!
Director of College Counseling, International & ESL Programs
It can be very hard for an international student who needs need-based financial aid to find it. While merit aid is often available, need-based is not usually available. Generally speaking public institutions are less likely to give need-based aid than private universities; however, it is important to call each admissions office and ask whether or not they do. Ask your guidance counselor for help. This is also where having a special talent – athletic or artistic – can be helpful, as well as excellent grades. However, it does exist; it just takes patience and time and a savvy guidance counselor to help you.
International Aid Varies Widely
Some colleges offer aggressive scholarship programs for international students. Others have very limited aid for internationals. Some offer merit aid to international students. Others are need-based only. It can vary widely from campus to campus, so check the financial aid and international student sections of college websites for specific information about each college in which you have serious interest.
International Students Also Have Options When It Comes to Financial Aid
Most financial aid in the US is restricted to students who are from the US or who are legal residents or Green Card holders--and of course that is all related to taxes and federal money. However, there is money available for international kids, just not a lot, and what's available really varies from school to school. A handful of schools have a lot of money for any kid, and a handful of schools have money just for international kids. If you're a UWC student for example, you're eligible for a grant from the Davis Foundation, or if you're admitted to one of the very wealthy institutions in the US, chances are money will appear for you. Check each college's website to see what might be available. Write emails. Ask questions. You'll probably be required to submit a statement of finances from your parents with some documents from a bank, translated into English. Another idea is to look at smaller colleges that have lower overall fees to begin with--many of those schools are very eager to have international students and have set aside money to help make a less expensive experience become even more affordable. I can think of five or six schools like that right off the top of my head. In every case, ask about your tax responsibility at the school that does give you scholarship money. It's one thing to think you're going to school at a discount or free, and then something else to discover that you have a tax bill at the end of the year.
International students are often eligible for aid
Most schools with a substantial international student population will award need-based financial aid to some of those students. Only six schools are both need-blind for admissions and currently meet full demonstrated need for both domestic and international students: Amherst, Dartmouth, Harvard, MIT, Princeton, and Yale. Other schools that meet full need for admitted international students include Chicago, Columbia, Trinity (CT), Union (NY), Vassar, and Williams. Notice that these are all private schools; public universities are far less likely to fund international undergraduates. For general information go to www.nafsa.org and www.edupass.org, and for detailed data school by school, check www.internationalstudent.com.
Six have need-blind aid; www.internationalstudent.com lists others
Six schools including Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth, Amherst, and MIT are need blind regardless of a student’s country of origin. This means that if accepted, students obtain the necessary financial aid. Yet, financial aid is available for international students at a number of other colleges. Go to www.internationalstudent.com and discover, for example, that Stanford has 885 international UG students, of whom 203 were awarded, on average, $29,000 in financial aid. Aid is also available at USC and Pepperdine, though in much more limited quantities. Specifically, of Pepperdine’s 236 international students 60 were awarded aid, with each receiving, on average, $23,000.
There are Two Questions Which Need to be Asked
1) Will applying for aid as a non-U.S. citizen or permanent resident impact my admission decision? 2) If admitted, what will my financial aid package look like from the perspective of grants, loans and any potential gap to meet the full cost of attending the school? The University of Pennsylvania is need blind as admission policy for U.S. citizens/permanent residents and also citizens of Mexico and Canada. All other students compete for funds allocated for international students, an amount which is approximately $6-8 million per year. Once admitted to Penn, all students, regardless of country of citizenship, receive a financial aid package with some job on campus (although not always for international students) and the rest of the package is institutional grant money, which does not get paid back. No loans are part of the financial aid package.
You may be surprised at the amount of aid available
American colleges are not required to offer “need-based” financial aid to international students. In 2010/11 they have, in fact, given $7.7 billion in financial assistance for those students who have chosen to study in the U.S. The best advice for a student needing aid is to target schools that are actively recruiting international students. Direct school aid is the largest external source of funding for international students (excluding self and family funding.) However, only 23% of international students in the US attend colleges that do cover the majority of their expenses. It is important for students to apply for scholarships and grants in order to reduce their own expenses.