Financial Aid: Don’t Trust, Verify!

financial aidTaking the theme of gaming the system and running with it,  there is also the issue of financial aid and how to determine need, which becomes much more difficult once you begin evaluating international student applications.

There are schools that award some type of financial aid to all admitted Vietnamese students.  Others, especially the more selective institutions with healthy endowments that wish to assist qualified students who could not otherwise afford the high cost of their education, also award millions of dollars in financial aid.  Essentially and to put it bluntly, these schools are looking for smart, poor kids.  They are out there but it’s bit like mining for gold.  You need to sift through a lot of ore to find the nuggets of gold.  (As in other countries, including the US, there is a strong correlation between opportunity and social class.)

What happens a school makes a mistake, i.e,. awards financial aid to a smart, rich kid?  1)  The school could lose face because other students from the same country may know about the newbie’s parents and their wealth, which means the joke is on the school; and 2) it’s a waste of the school’s precious resources, which could have benefited a truly qualified and deserving student.

verifyThe bottom line is that even many wealthy parents want scholarships and financial aid for their children.  Why?  Bragging rights and a way of defraying the cost even, if money is no object.

As you may have already surmised, based on the title of this post, my advice is to verify not trust.  By that I mean perform your due diligence and find someone honest and reliable on the ground to get the scoop.  This would include, for example, a visit to the student’s home because seeing is believing, to some extent.  This exercise will save your institution money and the embarrassment of having a scholarship recipient show up on campus who other students from the same country know is not deserving of a need-based scholarship, to put it mildly.


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