Photo by Josh Appel

A college pledges to go need-blind for international students. Plus, a new partnership for latitude(s) and meet me at AIEA.

Need-blind admissions

International students: Cash cow. Full pay. Need blind?

Dartmouth College recently announced that it would extend its need-blind admissions policy to international students and meet 100 percent of demonstrated need regardless of citizenship.

In doing so, it joined a small club of American colleges. Dartmouth officials say the college is one of just six institutions that both offer need-blind admissions and cover full need for international students.

Lee Coffin, Dartmouth’s vice provost for enrollment and dean of admissions and financial aid, told me the new initiative was a matter of equity and access. The costliness of an American degree puts an education here out of reach for many around the globe.

“It was clear that there was talent in parts of the world that couldn’t come to the U.S. without aid,” he said. “We saw this as a really important opportunity to stake out a leadership position on the issue of global access.”

In recent years, the value of international students has often been framed as a matter of dollars and cents. Foreign-student advocates use the annual release of economic-impact figures by NAFSA: Association of International Educators to help make the case to policymakers, the public, and even members of their own campus communities. Studies have shown that the presence of international students, particularly full-fee undergraduates and master’s students, did bail out many institutions after the Great Recession.

There has been pushback to this narrative. As Santiago Castiello-Gutiérrez and Xiaojie Li of the University of Arizona write, the prizing of international students’ importance to the bottom line risks “dehumanizing” them. And as colleges take more seriously diversity and inclusion on campus, should that commitment only extend to American citizens?

But a greater focus on access in international admissions by some colleges could also have the perverse effect of exacerbating inequities — those between institutions. Dartmouth, which has seen a 70 percent increase in international enrollments over the past five years, was able to put in place a universal need-blind policy thanks to a $40 million anonymous donation, the largest scholarship gift in college history.

Even under its previous “need-aware” policy for international applicants, 63 percent of foreign citizens in Dartmouth’s most recent entering class received financial aid, according to Coffin.

Other colleges may lack the deep-pocketed benefactors or the institutional resources to put in place a similar policy. Indeed, as higher education struggles to rebound from the economic hit of Covid-19 — as well as with longstanding financial and demographic challenges — some institutions could find themselves more, not less, dependent on those international students able to afford to pay their own way.

“It’s a tale of two cities,” said Clay Hensley, an international-education consultant. He points to the unevenness in international-enrollment trends post-pandemic as a worrisome sign.

Indeed, Dartmouth had been forced to end a previous need-blind policy for international applicants, in place for the classes of 2012 to 2019, because it was not “sustainable,” Coffin said.

It’s a trend to watch: Will more colleges follow in Dartmouth’s footsteps, opening the door to more, and more diverse, students from overseas? And in doing so, will other colleges, those without the resources to widen access, find themselves at a disadvantage in competing for global talent?

Got international-education news? Email me your tips and feedback. Or let’s connect on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Big News … for latitude(s)

After years as a (literal) kitchen-table start-up, latitude(s) is joining The Chronicle of Higher Education family of newsletters. 

Beginning March 9, this newsletter will go out to readers via the Chronicle. This partnership will allow me to continue to bring you essential international-education news and analysis — free of charge to readers. Editorially, expect nothing to change. I promise to always strive to bring you important updates from all over the globe, to give you context and behind-the-scenes insight, and to foster a community committed to international education.

To keep receiving newsletters, I need you to click on this link. For those of you who already have Chronicle accounts, you simply need to agree to start subscribing to latitude(s). If you don’t have one, setting up an account is free and easy. You do not need to be a Chronicle subscriber.

Thank you to everyone who has supported latitude(s) over the years, through your kind notes, your smart feedback, and week-after-week readership. I appreciate it more than you can know. Please click here to keep receiving latitude(s).

Potential Caps on International Students

If a lawsuit forces the University of California at Berkeley to cap its enrollment, could international students and other out-of-staters be turned away?

As the result of a court case, Berkeley could be forced to cut its student numbers by 3,000. A key state lawmaker said that if the university has to stick to 2020-21 enrollment levels, available spaces should go to California freshmen and transfers. “We would absolutely prioritize Californians,” Kevin McCarty, chairman of the General Assembly’s budget subcommittee on education told CalMatters.

The potential limits are the result of a lawsuit brought by local residents who argue growing enrollments at Berkeley are taxing city services. An appeals court last week rejected the university’s efforts to reverse the enrollment cap.

A student member of the University of California Board of Regents also said she would favor restricting international and out-of-state students if Berkeley is forced to reduce the number of students it admits. (The case is likely to be taken up by the state Supreme Court.)

California has been ground zero for the debate over whether international students are crowding out local residents. Prior to the 2008 recession, only about 5 percent of students on UC campuses were from outside California. Now, nearly 20 percent are, as universities brought in more international and nonresident students to make up for state funding reductions. At top campuses like Berkeley, Los Angeles, and San Diego — which are especially popular with students from abroad — the share is even higher.

The state budget approved last summer already put restrictions on international and out-of-state students at those top campuses. Now, a NIMBY lawsuit could send the crowding-out debate into another round. 

Borderless Accreditation

Accreditation without borders. That’s the promise of Woolf University, a new “technology-based system for managing borderless accreditation and academic credit mobility.”

Woolf was started by Joshua Broggi, a former Oxford professor who was frustrated by traditional accreditors’ slow bureaucracy and local focus, which can make it difficult to sustain education’s global scope. Yet, he acknowledges the importance of recognized quality standards.

Woolf offers approval through the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System. It has a half-dozen partners now, in places like India and Latin America, and is beginning work in the U.S. You can read more in Paul Fain’s weekly newsletter, The Job.

Know someone who is into international education? Please share this newsletter, and encourage them to subscribe!

Around the Globe

More than 70 Asian American, higher-ed, science, and civil-rights groups have joined an amicus brief in support of a Temple University professor’s lawsuit against the FBI after he was wrongly charged with sharing technological secrets with China.

The U.S. Department of Justice is expected to soon announce that it is retiring the China Initiative name and moving toward less of a prosecutorial approach.

The Biden administration will reverse a Trump-era rule that could have affected immigrant and international students by deeming them inadmissible for immigration if they are determined to be a “public charge.”

A Georgetown University professor apologized for using a racial slur when calling on an Asian student in class.

China has expanded its list of world-class universities, institutions that receive extra funds to compete globally in teaching and research. 

UK university staff have gone on strike over pension cuts.

Delays and uncertainty have led some international students to say they were “exhausted and hesitant” to return to study in New Zealand.

More than 100 academics have signed onto a letter condemning the firing of professors in Iran as political.

Scholars at Risk is calling on Belarus’s president to release an European Humanities University student who was arrested after participating in protests against his reelection.

The Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities has started a new Global Faculty Exchange program to allow more professors to take part in global academic collaborations.

And finally…

Are you reading this week’s newsletter from New Orleans? I’ll also be at the annual conference of the Association of International Education Administrators. 

Please join me and an outstanding group of student speakers on Tuesday at 1 p.m. CT in the Grand Couteau room. What was it like to study in the U.S. throughout Covid? How can colleges better support international students in their academic, emotional, and professional needs? Hear about it all from an international students’ perspective. (Major thanks to Loyola University New Orleans, Tulane University, Xavier University of Louisiana, and the University of New Orleans for helping to recruit the panel!)

And let’s connect at AIEA! I want to hear your feedback, tip, story ideas — and to say hello IRL. I’ll be the one in hot pink with a notebook.

’Til next week —Karin

A freelance journalist and expert on global issues in higher ed, Karin has been writing for more than a decade about the changing relationship between American colleges and the world.