Wheaton College offers refugee scholarship in response to Trump travel ban

The Massachusetts liberal arts college also called on other academic institutions to create similar programs aimed at helping refugees. 

Steven Senne/AP
Runners make their way along a sidewalk on the campus of Wheaton College in Norton, Mass., in January 2016. The college has created a refugee scholarship in response to President Trump's January 2017 order on immigration and refugees and is calling on other colleges to do the same.

Wheaton College, a private liberal arts institution located in Norton, Mass., has created a scholarship exclusively for refugees in the wake of a controversial executive order from President Trump that temporarily banned the entry of people from seven predominately Muslim countries into the United States.

The new scholarship will be open to any refugee fleeing conflict from any part of the world, but applicants from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen – all named in the ban – will receive priority consideration.

Mr. Trump's travel ban has sparked protests across the US and abroad, with longtime Trump critics and even many Republican officials condemning the order. While many academic institutions offer collegiate scholarships specifically designed to assist refugees across the US, Wheaton College seems to be the first to offer a scholarship specifically in reaction to the ban.

"The current executive order on immigration, which was signed on Friday, January 27, endangers the broadly diverse learning environment that is essential to our mission," reads a statement from college president Dennis Hanno. "This new policy implies that international students are neither needed nor wanted. This is false, and we must counter that divisive message."

Even though the travel ban was temporarily halted nationwide by a federal judge in Seattle, the executive order has the potential to affect thousands of students studying in the US. All combined, there were 23,763 students from the countries named in the ban studying in the US in 2015, according to data from the Department of Homeland Security. Of these, most (14,981 students) were from Iran, with the fewest coming in from Somalia (only 67 students).

"More than 1 million students come to the US each year to study. The international coverage that the executive order on immigration received has prompted many students from other countries to reconsider traveling to the US," says Michael Graca, assistant vice president of communications at Wheaton College in an email. "By establishing the scholarship, we hope to send a message of welcome."

Mr. Graca says that the new scholarship is not intended to be a political statement, but is intended to reaffirm the college's commitment to recruiting students from around the world.

"We believe the global nature of our campus benefits all students, by providing opportunities for them to learn from each other as well as from our faculty," says Graca.

Wheaton is not the only college to share this idea. On Friday, a group of 598 college and university presidents released an open letter to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly voicing their concerns over the ban.

"International exchange is a core value and strength of American higher education," reads the letter, which was sent through the American Council on Education. "Moreover, our nation's welcoming stance to scholars and scientists has benefited the U.S. through goodwill and a long history of scientific and technological advances that have been essential to the economic growth our country has experienced for decades."

But despite assertions like this, the ongoing refugee crisis in the Middle East, especially surrounding Syria, has kicked off intense political debate across Europe as well as the US, with right-wing populist movements calling for the end of, or heavy restrictions on, the entry of refugees into their respective countries.

While many refugee supporters say that there is a moral obligation to take in refugees, many Americans would disagree with that assertion. In October 2016, 87 percent of Trump supporters surveyed by Pew Research Center said the US had no responsibility to accept Syrian refugees. In comparison, only 27 percent of Hillary Clinton supporters surveyed agreed with that sentiment. In total, only 41 percent of registered voters said that America had a responsibility to accept Syrian refugees during the time of the survey, with 54 percent taking the opposite stance.

Despite these percentages, Graca says that the reaction to the new scholarship has been largely positive, at least on Wheaton's campus. However, the college has experienced some criticism on social media, partially based on an incorrect notion that the college will accept undocumented students, he says.

"Some people have worried that this scholarship takes funds away from domestic students," he adds. "It actually is an addition to the more than $41 million in financial aid that Wheaton invests in students, more than 90 percent of whom are U.S. citizens."

The tuition and fees for the current school year at Wheaton adds up to $49,012, not including $12,500 for room and board. The scholarship will cover all costs associated with attending the college, and the usual $60 application fee will be waived for interested students. Officials from the college also called on other academic institutions to put similar scholarships and programs for refugees into place.

"These students have faced hardships unlike anything we could imagine and will need significant assistance to make acquiring an education possible," said Grant Gosselin, vice president of the college in the scholarship announcement. "We believe it is our responsibility as contributors to global education to make this commitment."

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.