Town Hall Meeting Addresses Wellesley’s Admission and Aid Policies for Undocumented Students
Thursday evening, Joy St. John, dean of admission and financial aid, held a town hall meeting on campus to provide information about Wellesley’s admission and aid policies for undocumented students. On behalf of the College’s Admission and Financial Aid Committee, she also sought feedback from the community about last year’s student petition to more actively recruit undocumented students to the College. We asked her about the current immigration law for admitting undocumented students in the United States as well as Wellesley’s policy.
Q: What is the current immigration law regarding admitting undocumented students to colleges and universities?
Joy St. John: Federal law currently requires all public elementary and secondary schools to educate students, regardless of immigration status. For institutions of higher education, there is no such law, but there is also no federal law that prohibits public or private colleges from admitting undocumented students. Wellesley accepts applications from DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and undocumented students. While colleges and universities can’t allocate federal financial aid dollars to undocumented students, we can use institutional financial aid funds to support these students.
Q: How might changes to immigration law affect colleges and universities?
Joy St. John: It is unclear what the future holds for immigration law and what that might mean for colleges and universities. At Wellesley, we have some homework to do to determine how we can best address the issue of immigration in this country in a way that also supports our students and the College’s ability to serve its institutional values and mission. We plan to hold future town halls to share information and continue the discussion.
Q: What is Wellesley’s current policy on accepting undocumented students?
Joy St. John: Wellesley accepts applications from undocumented students, although competition for admission is keen since undocumented students are considered in the same manner as international citizens applying for aid. Since Wellesley has a limited financial aid budget for international citizens, we must consider this budget in our admission decisions. Once accepted, we are able to fund international students and undocumented students using institutional dollars, and we are able to meet 100 percent of their demonstrated need. We fund admitted undocumented students in a very generous way by meeting virtually all of their need with grant dollars. We have an FAQ on our admission page that provides some details about our current policy.
Q: How else does Wellesley support current students who are undocumented?
Joy St. John: Our primary goal is to make sure that we are serving all of our students to the best of our abilities. In the wake of the election, members of the Student Life Division are reaching out directly to the very small number of undocumented students on campus to make sure that they have the support they need to navigate a potentially changing immigration landscape. I want to stress that no student on this campus should feel alone. Wellesley is a community, and we support each other.
The senior leadership of the College is also looking at ways that we can provide information and support students who may not be undocumented themselves but who have family members whose immigration status may make them vulnerable. Senior leadership is also trying to better understand and anticipate any changing immigration law or policy and how we can use our institutional resources to advocate for ideas that support our mission to educate women who will make a difference in the world. We have long believed that we have a responsibility as an institution to educate promising students who represent a diverse set of backgrounds and perspective, regardless of immigration status, and who can serve as credible leaders in addressing a range of domestic and global issues.
Q: What should students do if they have questions or concerns?
Joy St. John: Anyone with questions or concerns that they wish to share with the Admission and Financial Aid Committee should reach out to me by email or to our committee co-chairs, Professor Corinne Gartner and Professor Andrew Schultz.