Every year, Temple University holds a special event around Thanksgiving, bringing its international students together with families in the United States.
In 2016, just after Donald Trump was elected president amid talk of a crackdown on illegal immigration, Temple wanted to make sure its international students knew that the university wanted them. As Temple officials planned the event, they began to tout a theme embraced by several other universities: "You are welcome here."
And it caught on. Fast.
It became a hastag #YouAreWelcomeHere. Soon, dozens of schools were using it. Then an association of international educators adopted it and used it as the theme of its conference, and more than 350 colleges, 70 international education companies and organizations, and 20 high schools have embraced it.
Now, led by Temple, a group of those schools is turning that message into action.
On Monday, 57 colleges and universities, with Temple at the forefront, are to announce their pledge to each offer two annual, renewable scholarships to international students every year, worth at least 50 percent off tuition. Temple and many other schools charge international students the full price — at Temple that ranges from $28,000 to $36,500, depending on the program they are in.
"This program is a commitment to diversity and a promise to create educational opportunities for students from all cultures and continents," said Temple president Richard M. Englert.
The move comes as international enrollment at many schools has dipped over the last couple years. Temple enrolls 3,171 international students, down from 3,408 in 2016.
Martyn Miller, assistant vice president for international programs at Temple, said some international students, in declining offers of admission, thanked the school but said they planned to go to another country or stay at home, given the political climate. Uncertainty about visas, declines in scholarships, and costs also have been cited as reasons.
"We would like to not continue to lose students," Miller said.
Temple officials hope that even more schools join the new scholarship effort.
"I would love to see every institution in the United States that enrolls international students say 'you are welcome here,'" Miller said.
Schools from Vermont to Hawaii have joined in, from bigger institutions such as Temple to smaller schools and community colleges. Other local universities involved include Rutgers-Camden, Widener, and Cedar Crest College in Allentown.
The first scholarships will be offered in 2019; applicants will have to submit a video, showing how they will use their education in the United States to build bridges around the world — either on campus or when they return to their home country, Miller said.
A board overseeing the effort also hopes to create opportunities for all 114 initial scholars to communicate, Miller said.