November 12, 2019

Why Fulbright offers financial aid: What it is and what it is not

November 12, 2019

Instead of awarding limited merit-based scholarships, Fulbright University Vietnam offers financial aid in order to help students from disadvantaged families pursue their higher education here. The number of recipients and the value of aid packages depend on the number of students that actually need them as well as their respective financial situations.

Fulbright was established with a vision to become, in the next two to three decades, the top choice for students in Vietnam and from all around Asia. Inspired by the American liberal arts model, Fulbright holds to an academic and pedagogic standard of international caliber for both its undergraduate and graduate programs. As such, costs for the Undergraduate program include tuition as well as room and board fees (all students are required to live in dorms) to ensure the highest quality of education, in line with our development strategy.

Fulbright University Vietnam is a not-for-profit institution, with its operation funded by the US Congress, pursuant to an education partnership agreement between the Vietnamese and US Governments (read more about this story HERE). Additionally, Fulbright University Vietnam is supported by domestic and foreign benefactors. Such resources allow Fulbright to maintain an education ecosystem of international standards and to serve our aforementioned vision.

 

Fulbright’s financial aid grants access to students from all backgrounds.

Fulbright’s current listed expenses only amount to one-third of similar liberal institutions in the US. And yet, given Vietnam’s regional differences and socioeconomic disparities, Fulbright is aware that every year capable students with no secure financial backing cannot attend our university without support. Fulbright University Vietnam provides assistance through need-based financial aid packages instead of scholarships, a model prevalent at top American universities. Both are forms of financial support that help students pay for their tuition and room and board fees. However, scholarships are mostly merit-based and do not take the student’s family financial situation into account, whereas financial aid grants access to students from all backgrounds.

When applying to Fulbright, all applicants must provide information for the need-based financial aid application, with two options available. If their family can afford the four-year curriculum, they can opt out of the financial aid program; while if they require financial support, the family can complete the aid request form with an estimate before submitting it to Fulbright’s Admissions and Financial Aid Office for evaluation. The only ground for consideration is the family’s actual economic status.

Financial Aid, granted fairly

Fulbright University Vietnam implements the financial aid model in our commitment to providing education to students from all over Vietnam, whose backgrounds and financial situations greatly differ. We believe that the diverse backgrounds of our students and their communities contribute to a vibrant Fulbright experience. If we only accepted students from wealthy families, competent students from remote and underprivileged areas would be left out. Fulbright’s atmosphere of mutual learning and thriving educational environment would not be possible without a plurality of voices.

“When you are raised in an affluent household, you have more educational opportunities, you can afford extra classes, English courses, laptops and other technological gadgets to facilitate your education. There is no doubt you have more chance to receive scholarships than your peers from remote areas without the same privileges. If Fulbright only offers scholarships, we may unintentionally aggravate the gap between opportunities given to students of different economic backgrounds. We don’t want to exacerbate those differences. Fulbright wants to allow everyone equal access to education,” explained Ms. Le Thi Quynh Tram, Fulbright’s Director of Admissions and Financial Aid.

Ms. Le Thi Quynh Tram, Fulbright’s Director of Admissions and Financial Aid explaining the aid granting process

Fulbright’s financial aid program does not limit recipients and is granted on a need-based evaluation. Nonetheless, Fulbright’s resources and funding are not unlimited. Each cent of financial aid given to one student is a cent barred to another. Therefore, Fulbright must uphold one utmost principle: to make sure financial aid is given only to those who indeed need it. We are accountable to our benefactors that each cent is attributed fairly.

“The Office of Admissions and Financial Aid is responsible for allocating the funding rigorously and fairly. As a result, we will assess each financial aid application very strictly, thus we suggest families be as candid as possible about their financial situation. The financial aid program is open to every student, so there is no reason they should shy away from getting into their dream school. They should endeavor to present the most impressive admission application possible, then complete the application for financial aid. On the other hand, if the family is perfectly capable of paying full tuition, and room and board fees, we expect them to declare so immediately, so the budget can be allocated to other families in need,” emphasized Ms. Le Thi Quynh Tram.

In order to ensure financial aid is granted justly, Fulbright will take time to investigate and scrutinize each application thoroughly. Misrepresentation of one’s family financial situation will be severely disciplined.

The financial aid package will be in line with the family’s overall financial capability, including family incomes, expenditures, accumulation and savings. Fulbright experts will assess and decide on an amount for each student while considering other determinants, such as dependents, education and healthcare expenses of other family members, the parents’ occupations and retirement. Fulbright wants to make sure families with the same background receive the same support from Fulbright.

Financial aid is not a conditional loan

The Director of Admissions and Financial Aid, Ms. Le Thi Quynh Tram emphasizes the flexibility of the financial aid process. During a student’s enrollment at Fulbright, should an unexpected, major event take place and result in their being unable to afford learning expenses, the student and their family can contact Fulbright for support. Financial incidents are occurrences that have long-term effect on the family’s income, which may include incapacitating accidents or illness.

On the contrary, if one’s family income increases, Fulbright can adjust their aid package in order to reallocate funding to others in need. Typically, students will receive the financial aid application result at the same time as the letter of admission to Fulbright University Vietnam. The financial aid package (including tuition, and room and board fees) is designated for the entire four-year Undergraduate program, ranging from 10% to 100% of the total fees depending on family situations.

Fulbright’s financial aid does not require any repayment

Fulbright’s financial aid is not a conditional loan that requires repayment. It comes from the generous contributions of donors both in Vietnam and the US committed to erasing financial barriers that prevent students from entering Fulbright and who wish to make our university accessible. Therefore, we do not demand repayment of any kind. Fulbright only hopes students and families who benefitted from this program can someday be so successful they can become benefactors for next generations.

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