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Rhodes Trust to Allow Candidates from U.S. Territories

The Rhodes Trust has announced that effective 2016, all U.S. citizens and certain legal permanent residents of the United States who attend universities within the U.S. territories will be eligible to participate in the U.S. Rhodes Scholarship competition. Previously, the United States Rhodes Scholarships were only available to students who either resided in or attended university in one of the fifty states or the District of Columbia.

Cecil J. Rhodes, the founder and namesake of the award, once said, “Remember that you are an Englishman, and have consequently won first prize in the lottery of life.” He established Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe.  He also favored Imperialism,and he founded the Rhodes Scholarships, which provide full support for people from British colonies or former British colonies to study at Oxford University in England.

His objective was to strengthen the relationships of the citizens of British colonies or former colonies with Britain.

Rhodes, in an early draft of his will, specifically said that he wanted Britain to regain control of the United States. He also said that he wanted union among all the English-speaking peoples of the world. In his final will, he was quite chatty on the subject of the “American scholarships,” telling the story of a “wild Westerner” who successfully paid his own way through Oxford by working as a bricklayer. “He read hard and played hard,” Rhodes remarked, and he quoted an official of the college as saying, “We could do with more like him.”

The will as published, written in 1900, listed the States and territories at the time, including the Indian Territories and Hawaii, but not Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico had become a territory in 1898, but perhaps Rhodes was not aware of it, or perhaps the will had been drafted before 1898 and not changed before the death of Rhodes in 1902.

The will contains special mention of territories in general:

[I]f any of the said Territories shall in my lifetime be admitted as a State the Scholarships appropriated to such Territory shall be appropriated to such State and that my Trustees may in their uncontrolled discretion withhold for such time as they shall think fit the appropriation of Scholarships to any Territory.

It does not, however, mention Puerto Rico, Guam, or any of the current territories.

Because of that, the Rhodes Trust has never accepted candidates from Puerto Rico.

There has been one Rhodes Scholar from Puerto Rico, Hila Levy, who had established residence in Colorado through her attendance of the U.S. Air Force Academy there. Just as Puerto Ricans who move to a State immediately gain the full rights and responsibilities of citizenship in a state, including the right to vote in presidential elections, Levy gained the right to apply for a Rhodes Scholarship.

In 2016, all that will change. Students at universities in U.S. territories will now be able to apply for Rhodes Scholarships under the same terms as students in the States.

A press release from the Rhodes Trust explains that “Our former policy originated because the Last Will and Testament of Cecil J. Rhodes assigned his scholarships to the states of the United States and not to the United States as a whole,” and expresses the approval of the American Secretary of the Rhodes Trust of the decision by the trustees.

No specific reason for making this change is given in the press release. However, there have been previous changes modernizing the scholarships. For example, while the will did not say specifically that women could not be given scholarships, the qualifications of the scholars included “manhood” and “participation in manly sports.” This emphasis changed in the 20th century, and many Rhodes Scholars since 1977 have been women.

All students and institutions within U.S. states and territories will be able to observe the same rules and guidelines in place for U.S. applicants.  More information regarding the scholarships and the newly implemented rule change will be made available on the Rhodes Trust website at

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