Scholarship for refugees will promote authentic diversity


Earlier this month, Wheaton College created a scholarship for refugee students from the seven Muslim-majority nations barred by President Donald Trump’s recent executive order. At a time when America seems to be closing its doors to the world, this scholarship should be seen as a guide to other American colleges to fight for the rights and opportunities of students most in need. In numerous memorandums to students from the administration, USC has maintained its dedication to support international students. However, the University should consider establishing a similar scholarship for disadvantaged students who are fleeing violence and persecution, as well as facing legal challenges as they attempt to enter the United States. 

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the executive order does not advance national security and is unconstitutional. Still, the court ruling did not affect the part of the executive order which caps the number of admitted refugees at 50,000, a number which pales compared to 110,000 allowed by former President Barack Obama. Even with the executive order temporarily halted, the world is still experiencing a refugee crisis that global institutions, both public and private, must amend.

Shortly after the executive order, Provost Michael Quick sent out a memorandum standing in solidarity with USC’s international students “regardless of their national origin or religious affiliation.” USC has reached out to students and faculty from the countries directly affected by the executive order and joins many other colleges and universities in affirming its commitment to its current international students. But the University has yet to adequately speak to what it is doing for refugee students with much talent to offer USC, but no means to attend.

It is worth noting that for 12 years, until 2014, USC led America in the population size of international students. In 2013, President C. L. Max Nikias stated that “USC continues to attract the most talented and creative students from all over the world — a point of tremendous pride for our community.” Additionally, as of Fall 2016, 10,571 international students attend USC. Nikias has boasted that “USC’s international students arrive on our campuses with a broad range of experiences and perspectives, as well as extraordinary intellect and creativity.” There is a long history of international cooperation in academia and a grave importance in fostering cultural exchange and awareness in our increasingly globalized world. But many international students are cut entirely from the conversation. Attending USC is a near impossibility for refugees.

The cost of attendance at USC for the 2016-2017 year including tuition and other expenses reached roughly $69,711. For all students, this cost can be a major barrier, but financial aid is not even an option available to international students. International students can get aid in the form of work, private loans and merit scholarships. There is one specific merit scholarship for international students, the International Freshman Academic Scholarship, which ranges from one quarter to half of tuition.

International students may also apply to many of the same scholarships domestic students do, but many of these require an interview which can be a particularly expensive trip for international students that they might not be able to afford. All of this, of course, does not include the cost of applying for visas and green cards.

It’s no surprise that USC claims to so deeply value and commit to international students when they are, for the most part, paying tuition without need-based financial aid. There may be outside scholarships that international students can apply for and use at USC, but if we really believe that fostering our international community improves our university as a whole, then we should make USC accessible for people from a wider variety of countries, backgrounds and circumstances who lack the means to so much as apply to USC.

USC must not promote diversity and attendance from international students due to financial motivations. The USC administration must demonstrate that its outreach toward international communities, particularly pertinent in today’s political climate, is not solely for financial gain. One way it could demonstrate this is to establish a refugee scholarship and open its doors to those facing violence and persecution to uphold education as a human right and enrich the USC community with the diversity that it lacks.

It seems like for the next four years, the executive branch will turn its back on refugee students. Thus, it will be up to institutions to pick up the slack. As a school that takes so much pride in the size of its international community, USC should be taking the lead.

  • Don Harmon

    A charitable concept, but what refugees do you mean? Legal immigrants admitted to the US under Federal programs? Or those who penetrate into the US, undocumented by visas or any other legal permission to enter?

    For the sake of argument, perhaps you mean the undocumented, i.e., illegals. If so, they arrive without high school transcripts, SAT scores or even documents establishing their names and identities. How would you deal with that? USC has become increasingly selective! Many fully qualified applicants are rejected because they did not make the cut. Where would the undocumented/illegals be placed? At the top of the admissions list? How would you score them against other applicants, or even against one another?

    No, I am not proclaiming bias, hatred or wholesale rejection of immigrants. I am trying to figure out your objectives could fairly be reached without arbitrary selections.

  • Lance

    Sadly, Trump’s contentious issue is yet one more that makes being an international student difficult, on top of our already complex culture and language. Assimilation assistance must come from numerous sources to aid these young people embarking on life’s journey. Most struggle in their efforts and need guidance from schools’ international departments, immigration protection, host families, concerned neighbors and fellow students, and even informative books to extend a cultural helping hand so we all have a win-win situation.

    An award-winning worldwide book/ebook that reaches out to help anyone coming to the US is “What Foreigners Need To Know About America From A To Z: How to Understand Crazy American Culture, People, Government, Business, Language and More.” It is used in foreign Fulbright student programs and endorsed worldwide by ambassadors, educators, and editors. It also identifies “foreigners” who became successful in the US and how they’ve contributed to our society, including students.

    A chapter on education explains how to be accepted to an American university and cope with a confusing new culture, friendship process and daunting classroom differences. Some stay after graduation. It has chapters that explain how US businesses operate and how to get a job (which differs from most countries), a must for those who want to work with/for an American firm here or overseas.

    It also has chapters that identify the most common English grammar and speech problems foreigners have and tips for easily overcoming them, the number one stumbling block they say they have to succeeding here.

    Good luck to all at USC or wherever you study or wherever you come from, because that is the TRUE spirit of the American PEOPLE, not a few in government who have the loudest voice!

  • Christopher Lo-Records

    This happened last April. The provost released a memo about it. Six scholarships.