If your institution awards financial aid to Vietnamese students, I hope your approach is of the “trust but verify” variety. Not all parents and students are honest, and Viet Nam is no exception. Many people of means are happy to game the system and accept financial aid, if they can get it.
I remember a story about a highly selective liberal arts college in the US, which shall remain unnamed to protect the victimized, that awarded a generous financial aid package to a Vietnamese student. Once said student showed up on campus, other Vietnamese knew that her family was rich and that the school had wasted valuable financial aid funding on an undeserving student. The result was loss of institutional face and resources that could have helped a deserving student.
Another more recent story is about a state university that automatically awarded a certain amount of financial aid to ALL Vietnamese students, as if all Vietnamese were poor and deserved it. No due diligence. Apply, get admitted and, bingo!, you’re golden. Again, a waste of financial aid dollars that could have gone to qualified and deserving students.
What To Do?
How to screen students? I remember working with one boarding school that offered a fabulous scholarship at their school and an undergraduate education at any university in the world. They were looking specifically for an economically disadvantaged yet high-achieving Vietnamese high school student. The selection process included sending staff to the finalists homes to interview them and their parents, and also to make sure they weren’t living in a million-dollar home or driving a luxury automobile. Seeing is believing, to a certain extent, and it worked.
This due diligence is likely to incur an additional cost, given the staff time involved. That’s something institutions should keep in mind.
Some colleagues attempt to obtain this information from the education agents they work with. That requires a high degree of trust, which is not always present.
The safer and less costly alternative is to stick to merit-based scholarships that are linked to objective criteria such as standardized test scores, high school GPAs, and interviews. The one drawback is that urban students from higher social classes disproportionately benefit from this approach.
Shalom (שלום), MAA
P.S.: I wrote about this issue three years ago. Given what I’ve heard recently from various colleagues, it’s worth revisiting.
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