Amherst College to Extend Need-Blind Admission Policy to International Students

Submitted by Emanuel Costache

April 9, 2008
Contact: Caroline Jenkins Hanna
Director of Media Relations

413/542-8417

AMHERST, Mass.—Amherst College’s board of trustees has voted to extend the school’s need-blind admission policy to international students. The change, which will take effect during the 2008-09 admissions cycle, makes the school one of just eight colleges and universities in the United States to offer such a consideration to applicants from other countries.

“From the earliest days of Amherst’s existence, the college has recognized the value of attracting the most talented students from all over the world to our community,” said President Anthony W. Marx. “By making the admission process need-blind for all applicants—including those from other countries—we hope that we are only reinforcing the message that we welcome all students to apply, regardless of financial standing. It is in everyone’s best interest that we are doing what we can to educate the best mix of future leaders.”

 “Need-blind” means that a school makes admission decisions without holding financial need against that applicant. Amherst also agrees to meet the full financial need of every student who is admitted. Under previous guidelines, the college was need-blind only for American citizens and permanent residents.

Tom Parker, Amherst’s dean of admission and financial aid, said that when he meets guidance counselors from outside the United States, they always ask whether Amherst is need-blind for international students. “If it’s not the first question they ask you, it’s the second question they ask, because it’s so critical.” Parker added that he expects—and welcomes—a jump in applications from outside of the United States this fall. “Now, everyone will be compared with everyone else. It’s a level playing field.”

The policy change builds on Amherst’s long leadership in the areas of accessibility and affordability. The college was one of the first in the country to adopt a need-blind admission policy, and, in 1999, the first to eliminate loans for low-income students. Then, this past July, Amherst became one of the first in the nation to eliminate loans for every undergraduate, beginning in the 2008-09 academic year.

In recent years, international students have made up about 8 percent of the college’s student body. Many of them receive financial aid in the form of college grants and work-study jobs, like their American classmates. Students from Africa and Latin America are also eligible for two need-based scholarships, the Koenig Scholarship for talented low-income students and the Nelson Mandela Scholarship for students from South Africa or Mozambique. Unlike their American classmates, however, those from other countries are ineligible for federal grants.

Amherst records show that the earliest international student to attend the college was Nicholas Petrocokino, a member of the Class of 1829 and a native of Chios, Greece. Other notable international alumni include Joseph Hardy Neesima of Japan, Class of 1870, founder of the school that would become Doshisha University; Albert II, Class of 1982, Prince of Monaco; and Kimmie Weeks of Liberia, Class of 2005, global activist and humanitarian who founded Youth Action International.   

Founded in 1821 for “the education of indigent young men of piety and talents,” Amherst College is now widely regarded as one of the premier liberal arts colleges in the nation, enrolling a diverse group of approximately 1,600 young men and women. Well known for its academic excellence, Amherst is also considered among the very best schools in the country in terms of accessibility: The college’s financial aid packages are consistently among the most generous in the U.S., and, among its peer universities and colleges, Amherst has the greatest economic diversity.

Diversity, in its broadest sense, is fundamental to Amherst’s mission. The college enrolls students from every state and more than 40 countries, and, for the past several years, nearly 40 percent of Amherst’s students have been students of color. Amherst offers the B.A. degree in 34 fields of study.

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