Date January 25, 2024
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Brown plans to become need-blind for international undergraduate students in next admissions cycle

In a major step toward expanded access, the University met its ambitious $120 million fundraising goal to launch need-blind admission for international students beginning with the Class of 2029.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — With generous donors enabling Brown University to achieve a $120 million fundraising goal, Brown plans to become need-blind for all undergraduate international students starting with the Class of 2029, which will arrive on campus in Fall 2025.

Brown has sustained a need-blind admission policy for domestic undergraduates since 2003, eliminating from the admission process the consideration of each applicant’s ability to pay tuition. Extending the policy to international undergraduates will expand the University’s ability to enroll and educate talented students from the widest possible range of backgrounds and income levels.

After implementing the policy for the Class of 2029, the University will rely on the continued generosity of donors to raise an additional $100 million to make the initiative permanent. The move is part of an ongoing commitment to admit students irrespective of their ability to pay for tuition, and to ensure the sustainability of financial aid initiatives for generations to come, said Brown President Christina H. Paxson.

“Making Brown an affordable choice for extraordinarily talented international students from every income level is nothing short of transformational,” Paxson said. “The University is at its very best when we welcome and support students from the widest possible range of backgrounds, experiences and viewpoints, who learn from each other on campus and generate new understandings and insights in an increasingly complex world.”

The initiative builds on existing efforts to attract international students, which have progressively enabled a broader range of top students from around the world to choose Brown with the support of robust financial aid — like junior Lynda Winnie Umuhoza, who is from Kigali, Rwanda, and is concentrating in computer science.

“If I hadn’t received such a generous amount of aid, I would not be at Brown,” Umuhoza said.

Umuhoza said she was drawn to Brown’s innovative Open Curriculum and freedom to explore different academic pathways, and she has embraced multiple opportunities to do so on campus and through community engagement in Providence.

“I’ve always been really active in community service, and by giving me this opportunity, Brown is helping my entire community, in a sense,” Umuhoza said. “I can go back to Rwanda and be able to help people. So this isn’t just helping one student, but also the entire community that I come from.”

With support from donors, Brown bolsters affordability

In implementing the initiative, Brown will become one of only eight U.S. colleges that is need-blind for international undergraduates, said Logan Powell, associate provost for enrollment and dean of undergraduate admission. That promises to expand Brown’s ability to recruit academically talented students around the world.

“This creates the exciting opportunity for us to expand our outreach to more parts of the world and to admit exceptional students from a much broader range of socioeconomic backgrounds,” Powell said.

The shift to need-blind from the University’s current need-aware policy for international undergraduates, which considers a student’s financial need in admissions decisions, will have a significant impact, he added.

“This enables Brown to fulfill commitments around the world that we think are vitally important to the diversity of perspective and academic strength that define the Brown community,” Powell said. “Expanding opportunities to talented and deserving students from around the world will add to one of Brown’s greatest strengths: its people.”

Notable among the generous donors to the initiative are siblings Aysha and Omar Shoman, Brown graduates who in 2022 made the largest gift ($25 million) for international financial aid in University history, as part of the BrownTogether campaign. The Shomans drew inspiration from their grandfather, who immigrated to the U.S. from the Middle East in 1911 with little education and modest means, and returned in 1930 to found one of the largest financial institutions in the region.

“I believe that education changes people’s lives,” Omar Shoman said. “I think Brown University takes the long view and understands the importance of educating people from many different backgrounds and social strata. We are so happy that Brown was able to raise the funds in such a short amount of time — it shows there is a lot of support and a big demand for this.”

The generosity of the Shomans and other donors will have a far-reaching, tangible impact, said Senior Vice President for Advancement Sergio Gonzalez.

“We want the best students from around the world to choose Brown, and we believe that their socioeconomic background should not be a barrier to making that choice,” Gonzalez said. “We’re fortunate at Brown to have a community who shares that belief.”

In an overwhelming show of support, donations to the initiative came from six continents, and the donors included parents of current students, parents of alumni, and alumni representing every decade of graduates from the 1950s through the 2010s, he noted.

“The response to this initiative is a testament to the importance of providing financial aid for our international students, as well as to the power and generosity of the global Brown community,” Gonzalez said.

Building on a legacy of expanding access

Brown’s international financial aid initiative is part of the University’s long-term, sustained commitment over the last two decades to making a Brown education more accessible to exceptionally talented students from all income levels.

In 2003, Brown implemented a need-blind admission policy for domestic undergraduates, which eliminated any consideration of an applicant’s ability to pay tuition. In 2008, the University eliminated parent contributions for families with incomes below $60,000 and replaced loans with scholarships for students from families with incomes under $100,000. Ten years later, Brown eliminated packaged loans from all undergraduate financial aid awards, replacing them instead with scholarship funds, as part of the Brown Promise, which became permanent in 2023 when the University surpassed a fundraising goal to fully endow the initiative.

In the two years since Brown established the $120 million fundraising goal for international financial aid, early gifts from dedicated donors have already enabled the University to more than double international aid. The impact of increasing aid was evident immediately, contributing to an increase in the share of international students in the Class of 2026, which was 14%, compared to 11% the year before, Powell said.

During the last two admission cycles, for the Class of 2026 and the Class of 2027, international undergraduates matriculated from a total of 98 countries, more than a 12% increase in the number of countries students hailed from in the previous two classes.

Prior to the launch of the initiative, 15% of international undergraduates received financial aid; in the Class of 2027, 40% receive financial aid. The increased funding has also enabled the University to support international students in new and expanded ways, like a group of Ukrainian students in the Class of 2026 for whom the University is covering 100% of the cost of a Brown education, Powell noted.

“That’s an example of one of the ways that these additional resources have allowed Brown to admit and support students, like the students from Ukraine who were displaced by conflict,” Powell said. “We can do things differently than we have before, and we can offer opportunities to students who need financial aid from a much broader set of international backgrounds than was ever possible in the past.”

In Fall 2023, in addition to many virtual recruitment events, Brown’s Office of Undergraduate Admission held events in 20 countries, up from 13 countries in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic limited in-person recruitment. Thanks to these resources, the admissions team aims to travel to around 30 countries next year.

For Andres Filizzola, a junior from Asuncion, Paraguay, concentrating in biology, Brown’s Open Curriculum has enabled him to explore a range of subjects, from computer science to economics. Outside of his classes, he has been immersed in the hands-on experience of supporting cancer research in a campus laboratory.

“I come from a country where education is not as developed,” Filizzola said. “Giving people like me the opportunity to experience this advanced research and college education is something that I feel is really important.”

Filizzola said Brown’s resources for international students have helped him adapt to the U.S. educational system and make connections to students he can relate to from many countries.

“We all come from different places, but we have connections because we’re all going through the same things,” Filizzola said. “It’s very enriching learning about other cultures, and that sort of opens your mind.”

Without the financial support that Brown provides, that opportunity would not be possible, he said.

“Removing economic barriers for international students is really important,” Filizzola said. “It’s really, really encouraging. For me, and for my family, it’s really important — without financial aid, I wouldn’t be able to pay for a college education here.”