As my boots trudged through the snow to carry me across campus, the one thought that came to my mind was “I really chose to live in this tundra.” Being an international student from a lower socioeconomic background, I didn’t really have the resources to fly to America and tour Carleton, so I did the next best thing: I googled Carleton College, — and after realizing I had spent 15 minutes looking at a Canadian school, I thought this should be fine. Although there were many reasons why I chose Carleton, a big factor was the financial aid.
Over the course of a year and a half, I have come to fall in love with Carleton and, more importantly, my fellow Carls. Though I chose Carleton for financial assistance, I stayed at Carleton because Carleton reciprocated my love. Or so I thought.
After a family emergency, my financial situation suddenly worsened and I was unable to financially support myself. Thankfully, Carleton has a system called Special Circumstances Financial Aid, that allows students additional financial aid in the case of an unforeseeable event, such as a medical expense or a natural disaster.
With all the confidence in my heart, I applied for the additional aid, only to get rejected. The email accompanying the mortifying news said that Carleton doesn’t have enough resources for me, especially because the financial aid policy for international students is “very strict and limiting.” My interpretation of this was something along the lines like: the international community is either not equally valuable or that they won’t bring in the same returns as the domestic students. Both equally upsetting but bringing up an important point that I hadn’t considered. We, at Carleton, love to boast our diversity, but there is one particular topic we ignore: class diversity.
From my observations of the Carleton community, a huge majority of Carls tend to look past other students’ nationalities; in fact, we love to engage in conversations about different cultures. This was one of the reasons why the Financial Aid Office’s news shocked me. When international students give their all to this community, does the college have no responsibility in treating us the same?
Beyond that, it showed me the shortcomings of Carleton’s socioeconomic diversity that it boasts about so much. The majority of international students at Carleton pay full or nearly-full tuition. How many international students do we cater to who need massive aid to attend Carleton? The answer is shameful.
Though I can’t entirely blame the Carleton College Financial Aid Office for this discrepancy, there definitely needs to be a bigger conversation about how diverse we really are on this campus. Does having token people of color on the front pages of college brochures do enough, or should we reevaluate the resources we have available and where we appropriate them? Is the distribution equitable?
Though it is no surprise that Carleton needs full-tuition paying students to sustain the College’s resources, there is no denying that there is an unfair distribution of the monetary resources both between and within domestic and international cohorts.
We, as the Carleton community, are missing out on an entire population of international students from lower socio-economic backgrounds and untapped potential for a greater diversity of experiences and conversation. Once we can actually feel the diversity of people and experiences at Carleton, the need to prove it on brochures will dissipate on its own.