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US: Dartmouth adopts universal need-blind policy

With the largest ever single donation in its 253-year history, Dartmouth College in the US will be implementing a universal need-blind policy, its president Philip J. Hanlon announced in a live ‘Community Conversations‘ video on January 12.

Need-blind admission will be available for all students at Dartmouth, the college has announced. Photo: Jeff Woodward/ Dartmouth

"I am sure this policy will strengthen the diversity of thoughts and cultures on campus"

International students will be able to consider this Ivy League institution based on merit alone.

Through need-blind admission, the ability to pay is not a determining factor in admission decisions. It’s a policy that American students at Dartmouth have benefited from since the 1970s.

However, with goals of increasing equity and opportunity for all learners, leaders at the Ivy League college launched the Call to Lead fundraising campaign to promote its global initiatives.

“This donation will ensure that Dartmouth remains a hotspot for attracting the best and brightest students from across the world,” Aryan Khandelwal, an economics major from India shared with The PIE News. “The playing field is now level.”

Dartmouth president, Hanlon, revealed the college had recently received an anonymous $40 million donation which has enabled them to join only a handful of other US institutions of higher education in becoming universally need-blind – other institutions include Harvard, Georgetown, Amherst College, MIT, Princeton and Yale.

In total, Dartmouth has committed $90m to support financial aid for international students, it has said.

The move will open up the opportunity for qualifying undergraduate international students to gain Dartmouth acceptance alongside their American peers, Hanlon added.

“The playing field is now level”

Yukta Sinha also spoke with The PIE about the new policy. Sinha, from India, is in her final year in the global studies graduate program at Dartmouth in addition to working on campus as a teaching assistant for a writing course.

“The class is an international section that has students from all over the world. Every single student brings a unique perspective and new ideas to the table. I am sure this policy will strengthen the diversity of thoughts and cultures on campus.”

Lecturer at the Institute for Writing and Rhetoric at Dartmouth Elizabeth Tremmel who works “primarily with international students”, knows how challenging and stressful the application process can be for them, she shared with The PIE.

“Adopting a need-blind policy will make the process more equitable and will give students who have dreamed of studying at Dartmouth the opportunity to do so.”

Jessica Vasconcelos Honorato of Brazil is one such international student at Dartmouth who had always dreamed of studying abroad but was deeply concerned about the financial implications.

“As a low-income international student, it was very painful to acknowledge that my financial background counted, not only socially, but institutionally against me during the college application process.”

The new policy offers her hope that the future of the application process will be more equitable and socially just.

“I look forward to seeing new perspectives and backgrounds represented in an increasingly more diverse and inclusive way,” added Honorato.

Turkish economics and government student Melisa Baran experienced the application stress referenced by Tremmel.

“As an international student, applying to a low-acceptance rate school that wasn’t need-blind for internationals was quite stressful.”

She anticipates that the new initiative at Dartmouth will lead to an increase in international enrolments, something that many others in the Dartmouth community are anticipating as well.

Over the past five years, the number of international applications at Dartmouth has risen 79%, yet at nearly $80,000 per year, the steep costs remain a deterring factor for many. The college’s ongoing campaign encompasses a $500m plan to increase access and equity for the socioeconomically disadvantaged. Welcoming international students to campus and sending matriculated students on study abroad programs are central to the goals of the initiative.

Tremmel asserted that the college benefits greatly from international students and “the diverse perspectives and life experiences they bring to campus”, a sentiment echoed by many in the Dartmouth community — a community it aims to expand this fall.

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