NU-Q Helps Out Students After Scholarship Crisis


Bishal and Krishna Sharma, both freshmen at Northwestern University in Qatar, were affected by the scholarship withdrawal from the University of Texas at Tyler. Photo by Adrian Wan.

Last spring Nepalese student Krishna Sharma thought he had his plans for college all figured out. He was supposed to attend the University of Texas at Tyler in the fall. But then an email left his plans, and dreams, in disarray.

“I received an email on the 13thof April, which stated that my full-ride scholarship had been cancelled,” said Krishna Sharma, now a freshman at Northwestern University in Qatar. “Application deadlines for most colleges had passed, and I did not have enough time to reapply. It was a disaster.”

In April 2018, nearly 60 Nepalese students had their scholarships reduced or revoked by the University of Texas at Tyler. UT Tyler had initially awarded the scholarship recipients with its full-ride Presidential Fellow scholarship, which was granted on first-come, first-serve basis. The university later cancelled the offer “after the popularity of the program exceeded the amount budgeted for the year,” according to the email the students received. After the termination, students were offered the Tyler Patriot Scholarship of a total of US $5,000 per academic year, about one-fifth of the $27,000 they were initially awarded.

Current freshmen at NU-Q Bishal and Krishna Sharma were two of the Nepalese students affected by the UT-Tyler scholarship withdrawal. The had already submitted their confirmation fees and housing deposits when they got the news of the withdrawal.

“What we went through is not something anyone should experience. I was depressed,” said Krishna Sharma.

Some of the impacted applicants visited the United States Educational Foundation office in Kathmandu for guidance on how to apply to other universities for scholarships. USEF decided to help out the students and together they formed a Facebook group to notify everyone affected about the next steps they needed to take to still attend college in the fall semester.

“EducationUSA’s mission is to provide accurate information and advice to international students,” said Selena Malla, an educational adviser at EducationUSA Advising Center which is a part of USEF. “We served as a resource to students and their families as they navigated last minute applications and communicated with U.S. universities that extended special opportunities specific to students impacted.”

Bishal Sharma, who was eager to attend college in the fall after taking a gap year, said that advisers from USEF linked the students with International Association for College Admission Counselling. Counselors from IACAC started notifying other universities about the situation and these institutions slowly started offering spots.

Joan Liu, a university adviser at United World College of South East Asia in Singapore, reached out to help the students as soon as she got the news.

“When my colleague from Nepal told me that a university in the United States had pulled out its scholarship offer, I did not believe her,” Liu said, adding that in her 20 years of experience in the field, she has never encountered this type of situation before.

Liu immediately started contacting counselors and universities for support. While USEF looked after applications for universities in the United States, individual counselors helped students who were willing to go to other parts of the world. According to Liu, around 30 counselors worked behind the scenes to assist the Nepalese students in getting placements.

“Our core team was a group of eight women from five different countries,” Liu said, who added that they dubbed themselves the Justice League. “Sometimes universities replied to students’ tweets saying they would be glad to offer help, but there were a lot of students who still needed placements.”

“It was like application “Hunger Games,’” Krishna Sharma said. “One university would open position for one applicant and all 57 of us would apply. We were not in the position to think about what majors the university offered, we just wanted to get in somewhere,” he added.

Bishal and Krishna Sharma waited for their chance to apply to the right university. While Krishna wanted to major in journalism, Bishal kept his options open; however, he was extremely interested in filmmaking. Out of all the universities that agreed to help the students, NU-Q was the only one that offered majors that interested them.

“Attending university is [a] journey that each one of us creates and defines. We’re so happy to be able to assist two remarkable young men in finding their Northwestern direction,” stated Alex Schultes, director of admissions at NU-Q.

“They offered journalism and communication as majors and the facilities were amazing. I didn’t think twice, I just applied,” Bishal Sharma said.

Most students who had their scholarships withdrawn by UT Tyler joined colleges that accepted them for the fall 2018 semester. According to Liu, out of the some 57 students affected, 50 now have placements and financial aid packages in universities around the world.

However, Liu said the Justice League has not been able to get in touch with all the students affected. “There are still kids out there, and I don’t know if they require help or not,” she said.

Another complication: although most students were offered substantial scholarships after getting accepted into their new universities, not everyone has been able to cover their college expenses. Thirteen students require more aid to cover the gap between their tuition fees and their financial aid offers, Liu said.

Saugyan Chapain, a freshman at West Virginia University, said he received “a pretty attractive scholarship” but he still requires financial assistance.

“I have to pay $12,000 per year and you can imagine the difficulty for a middle-class family from Nepal to cover that cost. My family can only contribute around $8,000 per year,” Chapain said.

The Justice League is currently in the process of organizing a fundraiser to cover expenses of students who did not receive substantial financial aid from universities that they are attending or are going to attend.

“In total, we have to raise around US $250,000 to make sure that all the kids make it into their second year in university.”

Krishna Sharma, who is helping to organize the fundraiser, said, “I am extremely happy and grateful towards NU-Q for helping us out. The whole process was very overwhelming but it worked out.”

The Daily Q has reached out to UT Tyler for comment but has not received a response yet. Updates will be posted on the article when a statement is available.

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