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On April 25th, the Tyler Morning Telegraph was among the first batch of media outlets to report that the University of Texas at Tyler had gone through the highly unusual step of revoking scholarships from around 61 students in Nepal.
This incident, reminiscent of UC Irvine rescinding 500 admissions offers just months before the fall term began in 2017, has international implications, leaving dozens of students suddenly searching for other options.
While this development has raised many questions for the admissions community as a whole that have yet to be answered fully, a group of international volunteers has stepped up to focus on the students in this time of crisis. This includes counselors, colleges, community members, and organizations in the college admissions industry.
We had the chance to sit down with Emily Dobson, a college counselor at The Panamerican School of Porto Alegre who, along with an ad-hoc team of volunteers including Joan Liu, Kelly Braun, Diva Shrestha, Emily Dobson, Marie Kobayashi, and Selena Malla, are rallying an international crowd focused on helping these students navigate this unprecedented situation they have found themselves in.
Selena Malla, Volunteer and Activist
Channel CCR: Emily, for those who are new to this story, can you share what happened with this group of Nepali students who had accepted the University of Texas at Tyler Scholarships?
Emily Dobson: UT Tyler gave approximately 93 full scholarships and cancelled 61 in late April, days before the May 1 deadline for deposits; affected students had already turned down other offers or withdrew applications- and after this unprecedented decision- they had nowhere to go- no counselors, advocates or direction. Joan Liu caught wind of this story through a friend, and after confirming that it did indeed happen, and seeing the utter gravity of it, she emailed a small group of us and put it out in our social media admissions forums. We jumped on board and it’s been a roller coaster ever since.
Emily Dobson and Luna, Volunteer and Activist
Channel CCR: Who are some of these individuals who have stepped up, and what is your strategy?
Emily Dobson: We are now using as many media outlets and contacts that we have to find the remaining students who may have been affected, offer counseling support, and establish some type of alternative opportunity for them.
Joan Liu is a University Advisor at United World World College of Southeast Asia, East Campus in Singapore. She also served on the Executive Board of the International Association for College Admissions Counseling (Inter-ACAC), and was the organization's first Chair of Access, Inclusion, and Success (2014-17). Along with Education USA-Nepal advisor, Selena Malla, Joan has stepped up in a major way, playing a role as advocate, match-maker, and strategist in helping students affected by this decision to find placements within schools around the globe.
Basically, Joan has formed a crisis team of leaders involved in college admissions through the phenomenal outreach outlets on social media - from IACAC, NACAC, Wonder Women in Admissions. College Admissions Recruiters and other valuable forums we utilize to support one another and our students. She has delegated roles to each of us, and we have been taking shifts to follow up. Our team is based in Singapore, Nepal, Japan, Brazil (me) and we have others coming forward in California and Bangladesh to assist.
Joan Liu, Volunteer and Activist
Channel CCR: Can you explain why this is hard for an affected international student?
Emily Dobson: College choices are hard for the majority of applicants - and their families - even those working with school or independent counselors. Without the proper support, pertinent information gets lost and, in this case, students were taken advantage of - they had no idea if this was a normal outcome and if not, what they could do about it. Amen to the US Department of State-funded Education-USA branch in Nepal. In the case of the Nepali students, dreams have been crushed, their view of the opportunities in the US have been tarnished, the counseling and admissions world is upside down wondering how and why this happened, Nepali families have sold land or taken on business deals that could affect the other family members, in an attempt to full the educational gap left by UT Tyler. The ripple effect runs deeper than anyone can imagine.
When as student commits to an HEI and sends a deposit, or, in this case multiple deposits - there is a sense of not only relief for having made the decision, but also elation for all the possibilities that are soon to become reality. Add to that the fact that years of hard work provided a full ride scholarship, which means education and college life, not family financial needs and worries, can finally be the focus. For just a few days you don't stop smiling, feeling light in every sense of the word. And dreaming? Well, that is endless in waking hours and at rest - and they are all perfect endings. Email comes. Next - you're in a cataclysmic, ceaseless black hole. The cancellation of the scholarship probably felt like hitting a brick wall; as you get up - dazed from a free fall- you see the ripple effect crushing your elation, your hard work, your family's well being and your confidence. I simply cannot imagine such an incredibly long-lasting disappointment, deeply embedded hurt or a tentacle of shattered dreams as far reaching as the one caused by this oversight.
Channel CCR: Can you shed any insight on why - and how - this happened?
Emily Dobson: Frankly, we don't understand why it happened either; this event - at this magnitude - is unprecedented. We leave it to the capable hands of our colleagues in other places to investigate the who, when, where and how. What I can tell you is how it played out and what it means:
UT Tyler awarded a Presidential Fellow Scholarship, a full scholarship (tuition, books, fees, room & board), between November 2017- Feb 2018 to over 50 students in Nepal.
Students then paid scholarship confirmation fees, I-20 fees, and housing deposits.
On April 13, 2018, students received e-mail notification that their scholarship had been cancelled because "scholarship requests exceeded the amount budgeted for this year", and were instead offered a $5000 per year scholarship.
As a result of this:
Affected Nepali students, families, and schools cannot comprehend how a US university can revoke scholarships at this point in the admissions timeline.
Many of these students took a Gap Year to apply to the US, and turned down or withdrew applications to other institutions. They now have nowhere to go.
This further magnifies beliefs that international students may not be welcomed in the United States.
Channel CCR: What are the names and organizations of some of the people in the community who have stepped up in this situation to help students?
Emily Dobson: We have so many people and institutions to thank- and while we don’t have permission to be public about all the offers received at this point, we can share: University of Denver, Trinity College, Eastern New Mexico University, University of Akron, SUNY Koren, Drake University, Texas Christian University, to name a few.
In addition to the scholarships, Concourse Global has opened their online university portal to any accredited College or University in the world to view the individual student profiles and make offers- free of charge.
Channel CCR: What can professionals on the college admissions side in the U.S. and around the world do to avoid this type of situation in the future?
Emily Dobson: This will have to be a part of a much longer and deeper conversation amongst the admissions community. The associations that surround admissions practices, both on the university side and the advising side, are made up of a community of dedicated people. There is no doubt this unfortunate situation will bring together some of our best thinkers, collaborators and change makers in an effort to make sure nothing like this happens again. Right now, we can use everyone's focus on getting out the word to as many institutions as possible for help and support. There are over 17,000 universities in the world and close to 5,000 in the US. To absorb 61 students would be , numerically speaking, a pretty easy feat; but we cannot do it without help.
Accredited HEIS in ANY part of the world can join us on Concourse see student profiles and help make matches more simple and effective: Click Here
We have a group email- but it's better to use the forms so that requests can be categorized and delegated. UTTylerNepal@gmail.com
Channel CCR: And is there any advice you'd provide to high school counselors working with students right now to help them prepare for these realities?
Emily Dobson: The truth is, that these students, along with many others around the globe, do not have college counselors. The admissions process perfectly encapsulates the ‘it takes a village’ proverb. Counselors must always have access to professional development, professional networking and recent materials. This could include anything from pursuing a college counseling certificate, to belonging to one of the associations (IACAC, NACAC, HECA, IECA, etc), to annually reviewing statements of principles and good practices.
When this part of the support is not available to a student, we find that the students will often rely on the guidance of online resources and contact with HEIs. If resources are credible and HEIs are unified in maintaining and upholding certain practices, students without counselors can be well-guided.
Constant conversations to understand deadlines, requirements and expectations must be had at every stage of the process - and when there is a doubt - students should seek an experienced advocate - as those in the counseling and admission office.
Channel CCR: It is inspiring to see an international group rise up so swiftly to help these students. We are sure it is appreciated, and thank you for sharing your story with us.
I speak for all of us when we say, getting to know these students and their stories has been OUR honor. We will work to get every student placed. Some of us are parents in the support group and some are not, but we all celebrated Mother’s Day last weekend.