At Senate on Feb. 27, student representatives from the Admission and Financial Aid Committee presented their recommendation that the admission and financial aid policy for undocumented students be changed so that they are evaluated as their own group of students.
The current admission for undocumented students applying for financial aid considers them in the same pool as international students applying for aid. The committee, as a tentative step before any official policy change has been made, has recommended that aid for undocumented students applying for aid now be considered with a separate budget.
According to Joy St. John, the Dean of Admission and Financial Aid, the request to reconsider the admission policy for undocumented students initially came from a student petition that began last spring.
“There was a student petition last spring to President Bottomly asking the college to reconsider its admission and student financial aid policy for undocumented students . . . President Bottomly responded to the petition by saying that the question about the admission and financial aid policy would be considered by our committee,” she said.
St. John explained that there were three options that the committee considered before making a recommendation.
“When we were asked to consider this question, we decided that we needed to consider three sort of major areas of review. The petitioners requested that we change our admissions policy to be need-blind for undocumented students, so in order to consider that request we wanted to look at the question from a legal perspective, we wanted to look at it from a mission perspective, and then we wanted to look at the question from a financial perspective,” she explained.
“So we considered three options. We considered recommending to keep the policy as it is, and currently undocumented students in the admissions process are considered in the pool in the pool of applicants for international financial aid, we considered whether we consider undocumented students as we do U.S. citizens and permanent residents, which is in a need-blind way, and then we considered a third option to recommend a fixed budget for undocumented students separate from the budget for other international students applying for aid,” she continued.
St. John stressed that the committee is not connected to any one office and instead includes representatives from many groups across campus.
“This is a committee of Academic Council, so the committee contains faculty, includes two student members . . . it also includes me, the Director of Admission, the Director of Student Financial Services and a representative from the Dean of Students office,” she said.
St. John further explained that the committee’s recommendation was drafted after carefully gathering information from the community at a town hall in November and reflects the concerns that community members have expressed on the subject.
“We feel that our recommendation recognizes the desire by some to consider undocumented students separately from international students – and this is only those applying for aid – since the groups can have very different academic and personal profiles, because undocumented students necessarily come from the United States, and most of our international applicants come from outside of the country so they have access to different curricula in their high schools and have different personal profiles and personal stories. We also recognize the desire by many at the College to in some way improve access to Wellesley for undocumented students, and we also wanted to recognize the concern that the college does not have unlimited resources to expand our already sizeable financial aid program,” she said.
In addition, St. John said that the decision to change or keep the current policy could be made as soon as the spring semester and that it will come after conversations with President Johnson and the board of trustees.
Jordan Dervishian ’19, the senator from Active Minds, is pleased about the discussion surrounding financial aid for undocumented students. “I think it’s important that Wellesley’s administration reassess its policies on undocumented students, especially in the wake of the current political climate,” she said.
As the conversation about the committee’s recommendation continues, Dervishian is interested in learning more about the logistics of the possible policy change. “I’m wondering how the money for the aid will be allocated, where the money will come from and how many undocumented students will receive aid,” she said.
Sydney Stewart ’18, the Multicultural Affairs Coordinator, finds the committee’s work and recommendation promising for undocumented students at Wellesley. “I think that the decision made by the Admission and Financial Aid Committee is both reasonable and inclusive. It places a premium on ensuring that Wellesley, as an institution, makes an effort to consider undocumented students in their financial aid proceedings and to create a space in which undocumented students have a greater likelihood of leaving Wellesley without insurmountable debt,” she said.