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.