Ever since implementing the Opportunity Vanderbilt program, our school has received a growing number of applications from international students. Naturally, it makes perfect sense: as Vanderbilt “climbed up the ladder” and became one of the best American universities, it also gained a global reputation. Now, the first-year class has over 100 international students, yet although they bring diversity to our campus in cultural aspects, many of them actually blend in to the general Vandy population in one aspect: economic privilege.
Throughout my year at Vanderbilt, I have noticed time and time again that most of my international peers are just as wealthy as my American ones. Of course, there is nothing wrong with being wealthy, and if they were capable enough to be accepted then they should definitely be here. It just bothers me how an university that claims to be so diverse has so few international students who come from a less privileged background. I can’t say this surprised me. Vanderbilt is need-aware for international students and gives out very few financial aid awards every year in comparison to other top twenty schools. The financial barriers for non-American students make it difficult for many people to even apply here. What we pay for our health insurance, for example, is almost twice the one of an American student, and most international students have no choice but to pay that fee because the insurance they have at home probably doesn’t cover them in the US. This difference in price is not in effect in most top American universities.
I have had this conversation with friends many times, and I get it: I am totally fine with Vanderbilt giving more financial aid for American students than foreign ones, since after all this is an American university. What I am not fine with is Vanderbilt claiming to be a diverse and accepting place for internationals when it seems like the admissions office hand-picks the ones who can pay full-tuition, giving aid to very few despite there being a surplus of capable applicants. If we were not as well-ranked school as we are, I would understand because funding would probably be limited. However, as a top twenty school with a reputation that improves with every year that passes by, I believe it is our duty to keep up with other top universities and make coming here more feasible for talented international students, should they be upper, middle, or lower-class.