American University Preferences For Americans?

An op-ed “Aid, Discrimination, and Justice” in Monday’s Columbia Spectator speaks to an increasing conception of universities not as American institutions, but as world institutions, with a responsibility to a global audience, and, in this case, student body.

Columbia just announced an overhaul of its financial aid policies, of considerable benefit to poor and middle class-students. They did not appear to address the author’s concern – the absence of need-blind admissions for foreign students, a policy which he decries for ensuring that “international students are drawn largely from foreign elites.” He demands that Columbia offer need-blind admissions to all students, at any means.

And in the worst case, if equality in financial aid policy for GS and international students must come at the expense of increased financial aid for BC, SEAS, and CC students, so be it. It’s a matter of justice.

Nowhere in the column, unsurprisingly, is there any exploration of substantive reasons why American students might hope to enjoy an easier path to Columbia than foreign students, such as Columbia’s location in the same nation-state, or munificent federal research grants to the University, or its government accreditation, or federal students loans, or any number of ties. No, the author simply issues a demand for justice that requires considering foreign and native students exactly similarly in the application process. There’s no doubt that universities could afford more generous aid to foreign students; Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Dartmouth already do. This is a kindness; the movement to establish broader need-blind admissions frames it as a moral dictate, in terms that paint privileges that American universities very logically provide only to Americans as xenophobic. This author, very typically, wonders if “Perhaps Columbia’s goal is in fact only to train the next generation of the ruling and managerial classes for the U.S. and its allies and client states.” Don’t be surprised to see much more of this in coming years. Even the most prosaic details of universities’ national identification some.

Anthony Paletta

Anthony Paletta is a freelance writer.

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