Since Donald Trump’s administration first implemented the travel ban aimed at seven majority-Muslim countries, tempers have been high and tension has been strong. These new regulations have caused Muslims in the U.S. to rearrange their plans and lifestyles as they face the reality that traveling outside the United States may lead to serious repercussions. This has been especially true for Muslim college students, who have been advised not to leave the U.S when their semester ends and to make plans to stay during the summer months. It’s no secret that colleges have not been happy with the ban and have been helping students who’ve been caught by the ban.
The small, liberal arts institution of Wheaton College went one step further by offering The Wheaton Refugee Scholarship just 4 days after the implementation of the travel ban. Located in the Boston suburb of Norton, Massachusetts, Wheaton is home to roughly 1,650 students who represent more than 70 countries and 35 U.S. states and territories. The scholarship will cover the total costs of attending Wheaton, which were $49,012, plus $12,500 for room and board, for the 2016-2017 school year. Wheaton is also waiving its $60 application fee for interested students.
In Wheaton’s announcement of the scholarship on January 31, Wheaton President Dennis Hanno directly linked the scholarship to the travel ban. In his opinion, “[t]he current executive order on immigration endangers our ability to deliver” on Wheaton’s mission to “improving the world by advancing knowledge and sharing it[.]” The scholarship was established, Hanno explained, “as a way of adding our voice to the chorus of people across the country who are calling for the immigration ban to be lifted[.]”
While the new scholarship is open to any student refugee, special preference will be given to those hailing from the seven countries targeted by the Trump’s administration’s ban — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The scholarship “will change the lives not only of the students who receive the awards but also of many others in their communities” stated Grant M. Gosselin, vice president and dean of admission and student aid. “These students have faced hardships unlike anything we could imagine and will need significant assistance to make acquiring an education possible,” said Gosselin. “We believe it is our responsibility as contributors to global education to make this commitment.”
Mr. Hanno urges other colleges to join Wheaton and “reach out beyond our campuses and let people in these countries and around the world know that, as Americans, we are interested in helping others[.]” In doing so, colleges “can make an enormous difference by sharing our nation’s exceptional educational institutions.”
Wheaton’s swift response to the travel ban is to be lauded, and we are hopeful that other colleges will follow Wheaton’s footstep and demonstrate that they are still interested in students from majority-Muslim countries, regardless of any government imposed regulations.