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Dartmouth to Admit International Students Without Considering Ability to Pay

Dartmouth College recently announced that it would offer need-blind admissions decisions for international students.
Dartmouth to Admit International Students Without Considering Ability to Pay
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Dartmouth College in the northeastern state of New Hampshire recently announced need-blind admissions for international undergraduate students.

Need-blind means a university offers admission to students without considering their ability to pay.

With the move, Dartmouth, which is the smallest of the famous Ivy League schools, joins other universities including Harvard, Princeton, and Yale. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Amherst, also in Massachusetts, are other examples.

A number of U.S. colleges offer need-blind admissions but only six offer it to international students.

At one time, Dartmouth did make need-blind offers to international students. But, the school changed the policy after it became too costly. The new policy comes thanks to a $40 million gift from a person who did not want to be named. The school said it is working to establish a $90 million fund to pay for need-blind admissions for international students.

International students face high costs

Syed Rakin Ahmed is a 2018 Dartmouth graduate from Bangladesh. He is working on an advanced science degree in Boston and plans to return to Dartmouth to finish medical school.

Rakin received financial aid to go to Dartmouth. He noted the high cost of higher education in the U.S. “does present a significant challenge for any international student, and even more specifically for international students from low-income countries, such as myself.”

He said he expects the school to receive more interest from international students because of the change.

Syed Rakin Ahmed receives his white coat during a medical school ceremony.
Syed Rakin Ahmed receives his white coat during a medical school ceremony.

The current cost of attending Dartmouth is about $75,000 per year.

The policy will take effect immediately. That means students currently applying to Dartmouth may go for free if they can show their family cannot pay.

In a question-and-answer page on the Dartmouth website, the school said it did not make the change to bring in more international students. Instead, the college noted that it gives an equal chance to students around the world. The school notes that interest from international students was rising before the news.

International students make up about 10 percent of the undergraduate student population at Dartmouth. That is similar to the numbers at Harvard and MIT. The school notes international students make up 14 percent of the current first-year class, that is up from eight percent in 2016.

Harvard is one of only six U.S. universities with a need-blind admissions policy for international students.
Harvard is one of only six U.S. universities with a need-blind admissions policy for international students.

Christine Chu advises international students at a company called IvyWise based in New York City. She said the high cost of higher education is one of the first things she discusses when she meets new students. She said Dartmouth’s policy should increase interest among international students.

“Having a need-blind policy opens up that international realm for Dartmouth,” Chu said.

She added that the decision may help Dartmouth admit international students who would otherwise go to school in a large city like New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles. She offered these thoughts on how Dartmouth’s officials might think of their new policy.

“We’re not in New York City, we’re not a Columbia, we’re not in Washington, D.C., we’re not a Georgetown. People may not immediately think of us. They know we’re an Ivy League school but we’re not in Chicago or Los Angeles, these metropolises. How can we still draw really talented and excellent students? And I think financial aid is a wonderful way...”

Dartmouth’s top official for admissions and financial aid said the school’s move will influence the world for many years.

Lee Coffin said: “The students enrolling today will have lives and careers that stretch into the 2070s and beyond…We’re announcing to the world…that international citizens are full and equal members of our applicant pool and ultimately our student body.”

Students who have applied to attend a school are often described as the applicant pool by admissions officials.

“Different lived experiences”

Rakin, the future medical student, gave an example why it is valuable for Dartmouth to have students from many countries and different economic levels. One of his future goals, he said, is to help prevent women in his home country from getting cervical cancer. This form of cancer is limited in the U.S. because many young women get a vaccine.

But, the vaccine is not widely available in Bangladesh. He said the medical community is not invested in caring for women in the same way that it is in the U.S. He was able to share this information with his American classmates during public health discussions at Dartmouth.

“Having international students and having students who have had different lived experiences outside of the U.S. enriches these conversations further and the need-blind policy certainly makes it easier and I would say creates more of an opportunity for international students to consider Dartmouth as a strong option.”

Both Rakin and Chu said the true result of Dartmouth’s decision and the schools that follow may be in how international students see U.S. universities. Are universities welcoming to students? Do schools value what international students bring?

Chu noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has made it harder for international students to come to the U.S. Rakin agreed, noting that government offices that process visas for students reduced their hours. Also, he said he knew students from Bangladesh who chose to apply to universities in Canada and Australia because of the political environment in America.

Chu and Rakin said the move by Dartmouth shows that it is worth the extra effort to come to the U.S. Rakin called the move toward need-blind admissions for international students “a refreshing change for the better.”

Will other universities follow Dartmouth?

Chu said other universities may want to, but change comes slowly in higher education.

“Universities are big, they’re bureaucratic. It just takes time to change and consider these factors. Now Dartmouth has been added to this very short list of schools, to me, that’s a positive thing.”

I’m Dan Friedell.

Dan Friedell wrote this story for Learning English.

If you are thinking about applying to university in the U.S. which schools would you like to see become ‘need-blind’ for international students? Write to us in the Comments Section and visit our Facebook page.

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Words in This Story

graduate n. a person who has received a degree showing they have finished studies at a school, college or university

significant adj. important, noticeable

challenge –n. an issue or problem that is difficult to deal with or solve

realm n. an area of activity, interest or knowledge

talented adj. having a special ability to do something well

enroll –v. to enter something, such as a school, as a member or student

option –n. something that can be chosen; a choice or possibility

refreshing adj. pleasantly new, different, or interesting

bureaucratic adj. using or connected with many complicated rules and ways of doing things; relating to a bureaucracy

factor n. something that helps produce a result

Important note to those who wish to apply:

To learn more about studying in the United States, visit Education USA, an official source of information from the U.S. Department of State. To learn about applying to Dartmouth, see the school's admissions page.