Did Obama Attend College/Law School as a Foreign Student?

Spe­cial Report

Did Barack Oba­ma Attend Col­lege as a For­eign Stu­dent?

Get­ting To The Wayne Allyn Root of the Issue

Who is Wayne Allyn Root? — Every­one

Here at TheFogbow.com we’ve spent 4 years fol­low­ing the Birther move­ment and debunk­ing lies, rumors, mis­un­der­stand­ings, and idio­cies of the eli­gi­bil­i­ty deniers. Some­times, long-debunked zom­bies rean­i­mate and try for anoth­er chance. Here’s one such exam­ple.

Wayne Allyn Root, Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty ’83 and 2008 Lib­er­tar­i­an can­di­date for Vice Pres­i­dent , burst into the media spot­light in Sep­tem­ber 2008 claim­ing that no one knew Barack Oba­ma when they were both at Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty. (Inter­view in the Sep­tem­ber 5, 2008 issue of Rea­son, Arti­cle here.) TheFogbow.com debunked that in our Spe­cial Report: Peo­ple Remem­ber Oba­ma at Colum­bia. Oth­ers also debunked that here: Snopes, Poli­ti­fact, and Factcheck.com.

This time around, in his arti­cle in Glenn Beck­’s web­site The Blaze (August 6, 2012: arti­cle here), Root has added a twist: Oba­ma attend­ed Colum­bia as a for­eign stu­dent who received for­eign aid! (Seems he final­ly read the April 1, 2009 AP Spoof, debunked here, and here, and here.)

Root’s Claims, in his own words, with com­men­tary
Addi­tion­al Con­sid­er­a­tions
The Facts of For­eign Stu­dent Aid
FACT: Barack Oba­ma had US stu­dent loans.
FACT: Barack Oba­ma had no need to apply for for­eign stu­dent aid.
FACT: Barack Oba­ma was­n’t eli­gi­ble to attend to any col­lege in the US as a for­eign stu­dent because he was a US cit­i­zen.
FACT: Barack Oba­ma was­n’t eli­gi­ble for US aid as a for­eign stu­dent because he was a US cit­i­zen.
FACT: Barack Oba­ma was­n’t eli­gi­ble for Indone­sian or Kenyan aid as a for­eign stu­dent because he was a US cit­i­zen.

Where did this Birther meme come from?


by Wayne Allyn Root, The Blaze (August 6, 2012)

Claim: I am Pres­i­dent Obama’s class­mate at Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty, Class of ’83.

TRUE. Root did grad­u­ate from Colum­bia, Class of ’83. From Colum­bia Col­lege Today, July 2004:

Wayne Allyn Root ’83, whose suc­cess sto­ry reads like a paean to PR says, “If a tree falls in the for­est and there’s no one there to hear it, there’s no point.”

Although Root and Oba­ma were both in the class of 1983, it’s unclear how much time Root and Oba­ma actu­al­ly spent on cam­pus at the same time. The Colum­bia Col­lege 1983 Class Day pro­gram show “Wayne Alan Root” (sic) as hav­ing his degree con­ferred on Jan­u­ary 26, 1983. Was Root actu­al­ly at Colum­bia for the Spring 1983 semes­ter?

Claim: We were both (accord­ing to Oba­ma) Pre-Law and Polit­i­cal Sci­ence majors.

MIXED: Oba­ma was a Polit­i­cal Sci­ence major with a con­cen­tra­tion in Inter­na­tion­al Rela­tions. How­ev­er, accord­ing to Root’s pro­file pub­lished in the Colum­bia Today arti­cle: “At Colum­bia, Root — spurred by pater­nal pres­sure to become involved in pol­i­tics or law — took pre-law cours­es and majored in polit­i­cal sci­ence…”

Claim: And I thought I knew most every­one at Colum­bia. I cer­tain­ly thought I’d heard of all of my fel­low Polit­i­cal Sci­ence majors. But not Oba­ma…

UNKNOWN: Only Root can know what he thought at the time, or whether he had ever heard of Oba­ma.

Claim: … (or as he was known then- Bar­ry Soe­toro).

FALSE: Oba­ma attend­ed Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty under his giv­en name, Barack Hussien Oba­ma, not as “Bar­ry Soe­toro,” as reflect­ed in both at least two Colum­bia Stu­dent Direc­to­ries (below) and the 1983 Colum­bia Grad­u­a­tion Pro­gram (below). Addi­tion­al­ly, he authored the lead essay pub­lished in the week­ly newslet­ter on March 10, 1983 – as “Barack Oba­ma.”

Stu­dent direc­to­ry 1

Colum­bia Direc­to­ry 2

Grad­u­a­tion pro­gram­Co­lum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty Class of 1983 Grad­u­a­tion Pro­gram

From Breitbart.com: “The image [to the left] –nev­er before released–is from pub­lic records at Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty that prove that Oba­ma did, in fact, grad­u­ate in 1983 from the Ivy League school. Con­trary to some con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries, Oba­ma was a stu­dent with­in the Fac­ul­ty of Arts and Sciences–not the less selec­tive, “non­tra­di­tion­al” Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty School of Gen­er­al Stud­ies (which only merged with the Fac­ul­ty of Arts and Sci­ences in 1990).”

Some birthers have ques­tioned why Oba­ma is list­ed at the end. It’s alpha­bet­i­cal by last name name and, as such, his name is the last name in the por­tion of the list shown in the pho­to­graph. It also shows that he did­n’t attend under the name “Bar­ry Soe­toro”.

Claim: I nev­er met him. Nev­er saw him. Nev­er even heard of him. And none of the class­mates that I knew at Colum­bia have ever met him, saw him, or heard of him.

Implau­si­ble. This can only be true if nei­ther Root nor his class­mates ever used the Stu­dent Direc­to­ries (in which his name appeared), or read the Sun­di­al, the university’s week­ly newslet­ter (in which Obama’s essay was pub­lished in the spring of 1983) … or read their own 1983 Grad­u­a­tion Pro­gram or Class Day Pro­gram (in which his name appeared).

FALSE: Dis­put­ed. Jim David­son, a fel­low stu­dent in 1983, direct­ly refutes Root’s claim in the com­ments sec­tion at The Agi­ta­tor.

#73 | Jim David­son | May 17th, 2010 at 12:45 pm: “Well, now we have anoth­er prob­lem. You see, I met Wayne Root in Tope­ka, Kansas (at the zoo) for the Kansas state Lib­er­tar­i­an Par­ty con­ven­tion. And I informed him that I met Barack Oba­ma at Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty when we were both stu­dents there in Spring 1983. So Wayne is lying when he asserts, “No one I know from Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty has ever met or heard of a class­mate named Barack Oba­ma or Bar­ry Sotero.”

He’s lying because he knows that I met Barack Oba­ma and he’s lying because I told Wayne about it. Since May 2008 Wayne has also known that I was a stu­dent at Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty 1981–1985. …

If Wayne Root is will­ing to lie about some­thing as mun­dane as whether he ever met some­one from Colum­bia who met Barack, what else is he will­ing to lie about?”

Query: If, as Root says, nei­ther he nor any of his (white) class­mates had ever heard of Oba­ma while at Colum­bia, how could he pos­si­bly know the name by which Oba­ma “was known” at the time as he claims?

In 2007, Root had a dif­fer­ent opin­ion. From a radio inter­view with Glenn Beck (March 7, 2008):
“We were both polit­i­cal sci­ence majors at the same col­lege, Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty, grad­u­at­ed in the class of ’83. So I guar­an­tee you we were sit­ting in the same class­es togeth­er but I did not know him. It’s prob­a­bly a grad­u­at­ing class of 600 or 700. So it’s very pos­si­ble to be in the same class and not know a per­son. I didn’t know every­one in the whole class.”

As for why Root may have nev­er met Oba­ma –one poten­tial expla­na­tion may be, in Root’s own words: (From Rea­son, Sep­tem­ber 5, 2008):

Root: All my bud­dies are white, what can I tell you! They don’t know him, nobody’s ever seen him, I don’t know what to tell you.

Oth­er guy: That’s the era.

Root: That’s the era. I mean, when I went to Colum­bia, the black kids were all at like tables going “Black Pow­er!” We used to walk by and go, “What the hell are they talk­ing about.” And they did­n’t asso­ciate with us and we did­n’t asso­ciate with them. So if you track down a cou­ple of black stu­dents, they’ll prob­a­bly know him. But nobody white’s ever heard of this guy. It’s quite amaz­ing. Nobody remem­bers him. They don’t remem­ber him sit­ting in class.

Of course, Root’s appar­ent claim that white class­mates had nev­er heard of or remem­ber Oba­ma has been thor­ough­ly debunked. See TheFogbow.com Spe­cial Report: Peo­ple Remem­ber Oba­ma. In fact, Phil Boern­er ’83, Obama’s room­mate in 1983, was white.

Claim: But don’t take my word for it. The Wall Street Jour­nal report­ed in 2008 that Fox News ran­dom­ly called 400 of our Colum­bia class­mates and nev­er found one who had ever met Oba­ma.

FALSE: The actu­al news report that the WSJ and Fox News referred to was a sto­ry by AP reporter Adam Gold­man. The May 15, 2008 arti­cle Gold­man wrote is here. Fox News inter­viewed Gold­man here (Video, at 6:38). Root is incor­rect that Fox News ran­dom­ly called 400 Colum­bia class­mates. Accord­ing to Gold­man, “We end­ed up speak­ing to more than 400 peo­ple who had grad­u­at­ed that year with Barack, they knew George Stephanopou­los [who was a sports broad­cast­er for the cam­pus radio sta­tion and salu­ta­to­ri­an for his grad­u­at­ing class] who had grad­u­at­ed the year before, but not Barack.” As Gold­man had also inter­viewed sev­er­al peo­ple who DID know Oba­ma for his AP sto­ry, Gold­man’s point was­n’t that no one knew Oba­ma, but that Oba­ma was­n’t wide­ly remem­bered for his time in the Colum­bia com­mu­ni­ty.

Claim: The first ques­tion I’d ask is, if you had great grades, why would you seal your records?

FALSE IMPLICATION: Oba­ma’s grades are not sealed. “Record seal­ing is the prac­tice of seal­ing or, in some cas­es, destroy­ing court records that would oth­er­wise be pub­licly acces­si­ble as pub­li­crecords. … Gen­er­al­ly, record seal­ing can be defined as the process of remov­ing from gen­er­al review the records per­tain­ing to a court case.” As far as we can ascer­tain, “… no Oba­ma record that was pub­lic in 2007 became “sealed” or pri­vate as the result of any court action. That is, Oba­ma didn’t spend any mon­ey to seal records.”

Seal­ing” aca­d­e­m­ic records would­n’t make pub­lic records pri­vate, as aca­d­e­m­ic records are already pro­tect­ed under the Fam­i­ly Edu­ca­tion­al Rights and Pri­va­cy Act (FERPA), a 1974 law that says “schools must have writ­ten per­mis­sion from the par­ent or eli­gi­ble stu­dent in order to release any infor­ma­tion from a stu­den­t’s edu­ca­tion record.” No one can get Wayne Allyn Root’s grades with­out his per­mis­sion, and no one can get Barack Oba­ma’s.

Claim: So let’s assume Oba­ma got poor grades.

INVALID ASSUMPTION: As no oth­er pres­i­den­tial can­di­date has ever vol­un­tar­i­ly released school records while run­ning for office, one rea­son Oba­ma has­n’t released his is that he’s stick­ing with tra­di­tion. Usu­al­ly such doc­u­ments appear in the pres­i­den­tial libraries long after their terms are up. Can­di­dates whose tran­scripts were made pub­lic nev­er autho­rized their release — they were “obtained” by less-than-legal means.

We also know that Oba­ma received “good grades” in at least some class­es. For exam­ple, he received an A in a senior sem­i­nar on inter­na­tion­al pol­i­tics and Amer­i­can pol­i­cy. And his teacher was so impressed, he lat­er wrote Oba­ma a rec­om­men­da­tion for Har­vard Law School.

Claim: Sec­ond­ly, if he had poor grades at Occi­den­tal, how did he get admit­ted to an Ivy League uni­ver­si­ty in the first place? And if his grades at Colum­bia were awful, how’d he ever get into Har­vard Law School? So again those grades must have been great, right?

Oba­ma and peo­ple who knew him at Colum­bia and Occi­den­tal uni­form­ly say that while he was a par­ty boy at Oxy, he knuck­led down and stud­ied at Colum­bia. He real­ly shone by the time he entered HLS.

Oba­ma attend­ed Occi­den­tal Col­lege for two years then trans­ferred to Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty. Trans­fer stu­dents to Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty were expect­ed to have at least a 3.5 GPA.

Stu­dents at Colum­bia have to spend more than two years at Colum­bia to qual­i­fy for Latin Hon­ors. Oba­ma could have got­ten straight A’s at Occi­den­tal and Colum­bia and still would­n’t have grad­u­at­ed with hon­ors. He was inel­i­gi­ble as he had­n’t spent enough time res­i­dent at Colum­bia. (Most col­leges have sim­i­lar poli­cies. They restrict the num­bers of Hon­ors grad­u­ates to main­tain the qual­i­ty of Hon­ors degrees.)

Har­vard Law School looks at much more than grades when con­sid­er­ing appli­cants. Accord­ing to Josh Ruben­stein, Assis­tant Dean of Admis­sions, in an inter­view for TopLawSchools.com:

JR: Our Admis­sions Com­mit­tee looks pri­mar­i­ly for two things – the abil­i­ty to thrive aca­d­e­m­i­cal­ly and the capa­bil­i­ty and desire to have an impact in a cho­sen field. We real­ly want peo­ple who are going to become lead­ers in their fields and who are going to gen­er­ate new and inno­v­a­tive ways to solve prob­lems.

It’s impor­tant to remem­ber that GPA and LSAT are just two of many com­po­nents in the admis­sions process. While we are for­tu­nate to have the lux­u­ry to pick from among many can­di­dates with strong aca­d­e­m­ic cre­den­tials, oth­er appli­ca­tion fac­tors play a HUGE role in our deci­sion-mak­ing process.

Each year, many can­di­dates with “low­er” GPA and LSAT scores are offered admis­sion and many can­di­dates with near per­fect num­bers don’t receive a spot in our class – remem­ber, we’re not only look­ing for aca­d­e­m­ic super­stars, we are also look­ing for stu­dents who are dri­ven to and capa­ble of mak­ing an impact. An impres­sive GPA and LSAT score do not nec­es­sar­i­ly indi­cate the pres­ence of the dri­ve, moti­va­tion, and deter­mi­na­tion nec­es­sary to achieve suc­cess. The non-quan­ti­ta­tive com­po­nents of the appli­ca­tion, pri­mar­i­ly the resume and per­son­al state­ment, are thus an extreme­ly impor­tant oppor­tu­ni­ty to high­light these oth­er crit­i­cal traits. Sim­i­lar­ly, let­ters of rec­om­men­da­tion are a great win­dow into how your words trans­late into action and how you are per­ceived by peo­ple who inter­act with you on a day-to-day basis.

TLS: Can you give any advice to old­er/non-tra­di­tion­al appli­cants about what you like see­ing in an appli­ca­tion?

JR: First, I’d note that old­er appli­cants are no longer “non-tra­di­tion­al,” at least at Har­vard. Over half of this year’s enter­ing class has tak­en at least two years to work or advance their stud­ies before attend­ing law school. Near­ly three quar­ters of the class has tak­en at least a year. In gen­er­al this expe­ri­ence pro­vides a sig­nif­i­cant advan­tage to appli­cants as they can both show­case their lead­er­ship skills and demon­strate their abil­i­ty to con­tribute to the Har­vard com­mu­ni­ty in a unique way.

TLS: What kinds of things can “sink” can­di­dates with both high GPAs and LSATs, caus­ing them to be reject­ed at Har­vard?

JR: This is a great ques­tion, because high GPAs and LSATs, while nice, real­ly only get you so far.

One of the most com­mon mis­takes I see is where an appli­cant thinks their stel­lar scores and grades will guar­an­tee admis­sion and then fails to put togeth­er a com­pelling and cohe­sive appli­ca­tion. Regard­less of your numer­i­cal cre­den­tials, if a read­er doesn’t walk away from read­ing your appli­ca­tion with a clear under­stand­ing of who you are and why law school makes sense for you, it’s unlike­ly you will be admit­ted.

TLS: Is there any way for an appli­cant to over­come a low GPA and/or LSAT by writ­ing adden­da explain­ing exten­u­at­ing cir­cum­stances? What kinds of sit­u­a­tions would you say mer­it expla­na­tion?

JR: Absolute­ly – this type of thing hap­pens all of the time.

In my mind, the key is to explain not only what hap­pened, but also why it hap­pened. If you had a rough start to col­lege, tell us why and what has changed since then. If your grades are great but you strug­gled with the LSAT, talk us through what the issue is and what you’ve done to try to over­come it.

Barack Oba­ma was the first Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of the Devel­op­ing Com­mu­ni­ties Project in Chica­go, IL. Obvi­ous­ly Har­vard con­sid­ered that achieve­ment and Oba­ma’s oth­er qual­i­fi­ca­tions mer­it­ed an admis­sions slot.

Claim: So why spend mil­lions to keep them sealed?

FALSE: Barack Oba­ma has­n’t sealed his aca­d­e­m­ic records, and he has­n’t paid any mil­lions to keep them sealed. Here’s an exten­sive arti­cle debunk­ing this rumor at ObamaConspiracy.org.

Claim: Third, how did Oba­ma pay for all these fan­cy schools with­out com­ing from a wealthy back­ground?

Most stu­dents get some lev­el of stu­dent aid. In 1979, Occi­den­tal’s cost (tuition, room & board, and fees) was about $7,000 per year. For stu­dents such as Oba­ma, from a sin­gle-par­ent house­hold of 3 with total assets under $30,000 ($94,000 in 2012 dol­lars) and income below $8,000 ($25,000 in 2012 dol­lars), the expect­ed fam­i­ly con­tri­bu­tion would be $0. (Kiplinger’s Per­son­al Finance, Octo­ber 1982).

Between the Basic Edu­ca­tion­al Oppor­tu­ni­ty Grant (up to $1,600 per year), Guar­an­teed Stu­dent Loan ($2,500 per year), Sup­ple­men­tal Edu­ca­tion­al Oppor­tu­ni­ty Grants ($1,500 per year from the fed­er­al pro­gram plus $1,500 from the school), and schol­ar­ships, Oba­ma could eas­i­ly have afford­ed even an expen­sive school such as Occi­den­tal or Colum­bia. (Ebony March, 1979)

Claim: If he had stu­dent loans or schol­ar­ships, would he not have to main­tain good grades?

For Occi­den­tal stu­dents to main­tain eli­gi­bil­i­ty for finan­cial aid, appli­cants are required to make sat­is­fac­to­ry aca­d­e­m­ic progress toward their degree. The Sat­is­fac­to­ry Aca­d­e­m­ic Progress Pol­i­cy (SAP) also requires stu­dents to com­plete a cer­tain num­ber of units and main­tain a cer­tain grade point aver­age after each year of col­lege atten­dance.” At Occi­den­tal, that requires the stu­dent to main­tain a GPA of 2.0. Trans­fer stu­dents to Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty were expect­ed to have at least a 3.5 GPA. As Oba­ma did suc­cess­ful­ly trans­fer to Colum­bia, his GPA was more than ade­quate to main­tain his stu­dent aid.

Claim: Here’s my gut belief: Oba­ma got a leg up by being admit­ted to both Occi­den­tal and Colum­bia as a for­eign exchange stu­dent.

Root’s gut has failed him. Oba­ma was not eli­gi­ble to be a for­eign exchange stu­dent. (MUCH more on this below.)

Claim: He was raised as a young boy in Indone­sia.

FALSE: Barack Oba­ma only spent 4 years of his child­hood liv­ing in Indone­sia, from Octo­ber 1967 through Octo­ber 1971 (Ages 6 to 10). He moved there with his moth­er, after her new hus­band, Lolo Soe­toro, an Indone­sian stu­dent who had come to Hawaii to study, returned to his home coun­try. The remain­der of his child­hood was spent in Hawaii.

Claim: But did his moth­er ever change him back to a U.S. cit­i­zen?

FALSE IMPLICATION: Barack Oba­ma nev­er lost his US cit­i­zen­ship, so there was no need to “change him back.” Under US law, Oba­ma could not pos­si­bly have lost his US cit­i­zen­ship as a minor, regard­less of any actions his moth­er may or may not have tak­en. See our FAQ: Bither Claims Debunked: Adopt­ed in Indone­sia.

Claim: When he returned to live with his grand­par­ents in Hawaii or as he neared col­lege-age prepar­ing to apply to schools, did he ever change his cit­i­zen­ship back? I’m bet­ting not.

FALSE IMPLICATION. As not­ed above, Barack Oba­ma nev­er lost his US cit­i­zen­ship, so there was no need to “change his cit­i­zen­ship back.” Barack Oba­ma attend­ed The Puna­hou School, a pri­vate pri­ma­ry and sec­ondary school in Hon­olu­lu, Hawaii, from 1972 to 1979. He would have had the same issues with visas and stu­dent aid if he weren’t a US cit­i­zen.

Addi­tion­al con­sid­er­a­tions:

In 1983, Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty had approx­i­mate­ly 6,500 under­grad­u­ate stu­dents in a total enroll­ment of about 22,500 stu­dents. It is an urban cam­pus. Unless Root and Oba­ma had a class or club togeth­er, they may nev­er have come across each oth­er.

Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty did­n’t allow trans­fer stu­dents to live on cam­pus. Barack Oba­ma lived in sev­er­al off-cam­pus apart­ments dur­ing his time at Colum­bia. They were unlike­ly to run across each oth­er in the dorm areas or din­ing halls.
Oba­ma spent much of his down­time play­ing bas­ket­ball. Root has­n’t men­tioned that he played, so they were unlike­ly to run across each oth­er in that venue.

Colum­bia stu­dents hung out at dif­fer­ent loca­tions off cam­pus. Oba­ma’s hang­outs were But­ler Library and Tom’s Din­er with his small cir­cle of friends. Root did not.

Root began at Colum­bia two years before Oba­ma trans­ferred there. By Junior Year, most col­lege stu­dents have estab­lished a core group of friends. In Root’s case, as he notes, that was white Repub­li­can con­ser­v­a­tive stu­dents. In Oba­ma’s case, that was friends from Occi­den­tal and some inter­na­tion­al stu­dents.

The 2 years Root and Oba­ma over­lap are when majors take advanced cours­es. For exam­ple, Oba­ma took a sem­i­nar (2 semes­ter class) on inter­na­tion­al pol­i­tics and Amer­i­can pol­i­cy, a class on Soci­ol­o­gy, “Mod­ern Polit­i­cal Move­ments”, and “The Nov­el and Ide­ol­o­gy.” Those seem unlike­ly choic­es for a con­ser­v­a­tive Republican/Libertarian. (See here for what class­mates and pro­fes­sors remem­ber about Oba­ma.)

Root has remained active with the Colum­bia Alum­ni Asso­ci­a­tion. Oba­ma has not.

Root’s Moti­va­tion?

Jour­nal­ist Dave Weigel wrote a pro­file of Root, who he called “Just Anoth­er Hus­tler in the Hus­tler King­dom” in the June 26, 2008 issue of Rea­son:

Wayne Allyn Root is a fail­ure. He’ll tell you as much. He’s “the world’s most suc­cess­ful fail­ure,” a man who stum­bled from job to job, suc­ceed­ing at none of them, before he found the one that made him a mil­lion­aire. He used to be a Repub­li­can, then decid­ed to become the Lib­er­tar­i­an Par­ty’s pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee. When he fell short, he threw his votes to Bob Barr and became the ex-con­gress­man­’s run­ning mate. What Wayne Root wants, Wayne Root gets. Sort of. …

As Root tells it, he tried, and failed, at thir­teen dif­fer­ent careers. He was reject­ed from law school. He failed as a real­tor four dif­fer­ent times, blow­ing tens of thou­sands of dol­lars on brochures for prop­er­ties no one bought. He man­aged a Man­hat­tan restau­rant, then “got bored and quit.” He became an enter­tain­ment agent, sign­ing one client, and snag­ging him one job—in six months. His biggest inno­va­tion was “Ivy League Home Clean­ers,” a maid ser­vice staffed with col­lege grad­u­ates, none of whom, quite under­stand­ably, want­ed to become maids.”

From an inter­view in the Sep­tem­ber 5, 2008 issue of Rea­son:

Root is no fan of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic nom­i­nee: “A vote for Oba­ma is four years of Karl Marx, and no one should be hap­py about that,” he told us and a few genial young lib­er­tar­i­an activists over cock­tails. “He’s a com­mu­nist! I don’t care what any­body says. The guy’s a com­mu­nist.… And his moth­er was a card-car­ry­ing com­mu­nist, and he says she’s the most impor­tant per­son in his entire life; he learned every­thing from her.

” …and he got in based on the col­or of his skin. Does any­one doubt that pos­si­bly Barack could have got­ten into Har­vard with a C aver­age because he’s black, where as I, white, could­n’t get into the same school with a B‑plus, A‑minus aver­age?

… I don’t know the answer but I’m pret­ty sure I know the answer. He had a low­er aver­age than me and he got into Har­vard and I did­n’t. And so my answer is, has Amer­i­ca real­ly been unfair to minori­ties? No it has­n’t. It was unfair to me. A white butcher’s kid, whose father had no mon­ey, but nobody gave me a break. And do I have a chip on my shoul­der? You’re damn right I do. And I rep­re­sent mil­lions and mil­lions of poor peo­ple in this coun­try who weren’t lucky enough to be poor and black, they were unlucky enough to be poor and white, and they can’t get into Har­vard.

The Facts of For­eign Aid

FACT: Barack Oba­ma had US stu­dent loans.

In August 2010, a jury in Iowa city found San­dra Teague guilty of access­ing then-Sen­a­tor Barack Oba­ma’s stu­dent loan records on August 27, 2008. Teague worked with the Nation­al Stu­dent Loan Data Sys­tem as a con­trac­tor for Van­gent, Inc. Teague was the only one of nine charged in the breach of pri­va­cy to go on tri­al. The oth­er eight plead­ed guilty to the charges. The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, Iowa), August 10, 2010. Quad-City Times (Dav­en­port, Iowa), Decem­ber 14, 2010.

The activ­i­ties of Teague and Lage and sev­en oth­er defen­dants came to light when the Unit­ed States Depart­ment of Edu­ca­tion, Office of Inspec­tor Gen­er­al (DOE-OIG), began an inves­ti­ga­tion to deter­mine if its employ­ees or those of its con­trac­tors had inap­pro­pri­ate­ly accessed the stu­dent loan infor­ma­tion of cer­tain celebri­ties or well-known polit­i­cal and sports fig­ures. DOE-OIG deter­mined that on a num­ber of occa­sions, unau­tho­rized access to the Nation­al Stu­dent Loan Data Sys­tem (NSLDS) data­base had orig­i­nat­ed with Van­gent Cor­po­ra­tion in Coralville, Iowa. Van­gent, a DOE con­trac­tor, assist­ed with stu­dent loan inquiries via their call cen­ter and engaged in debt col­lec­tion.

As a result, nine for­mer employ­ees of Van­gent were charged with exceed­ing autho­rized com­put­er access. All nine accessed Pres­i­dent Obama’s stu­dent loan infor­ma­tion while he was a can­di­date for the pres­i­den­cy, Pres­i­dent-Elect, or Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States. With the excep­tion of Teague, all of the defen­dant entered guilty pleas.

This inves­ti­ga­tion was con­duct­ed by the Unit­ed States Depart­ment of Edu­ca­tion, Office of Inspec­tor Gen­er­al, and was pros­e­cut­ed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the South­ern Dis­trict of Iowa.” (Inves­ti­ga­tion Report, USDOE, OIG)

Barack Oba­ma had to have US stu­dent loans or else he would­n’t have been in the NSLDS. Eight peo­ple plead­ed guilty and one per­son was con­vict­ed of access­ing those records. As only US cit­i­zens or per­ma­nent res­i­dents are eli­gi­ble for US stu­dent loans, Barack Oba­ma could not have attend­ed col­lege as a for­eign stu­dent.

FACT: Barack Oba­ma had no need to apply for for­eign stu­dent aid.

As above, most stu­dents get some lev­el of stu­dent aid. In 1979, Occi­den­tal’s cost (tuition, room & board, and fees) was about $7,000 per year. For stu­dents such as Oba­ma, from a sin­gle-par­ent house­hold of 3 with under assets $30,000 ($94,000 in 2012 dol­lars) and income below $8,000 ($25,000 in 2012 dol­lars), the expect­ed fam­i­ly con­tri­bu­tion would be $0. (Kiplinger’s Per­son­al Finance, Octo­ber 1982).

Between the Basic Edu­ca­tion­al Oppor­tu­ni­ty Grant (up to $1,600 per year), Guar­an­teed Stu­dent Loan ($2,500 per year), Sup­ple­men­tal Edu­ca­tion­al Oppor­tu­ni­ty Grants ($1,500 per year from the fed­er­al pro­gram plus $1,500 from the school), and schol­ar­ships, Oba­ma could eas­i­ly have afford­ed even an expen­sive school such as Occi­den­tal or Colum­bia. (Ebony March, 1979)

QED, Barack Oba­ma had no need to attend a US col­lege as a for­eign stu­dent.

FACT: Barack Oba­ma was­n’t eli­gi­ble to attend any col­lege in the US as a for­eign stu­dent because he was a US cit­i­zen.

Accord­ing to the US Code 8 USC § 1101, a for­eign stu­dent is:
(a)(15)(F)(i) an alien hav­ing a res­i­dence in a for­eign coun­try which he has no inten­tion of aban­don­ing, who is a bona fide stu­dent qual­i­fied to pur­sue a full course of study and who seeks to enter the Unit­ed States tem­porar­i­ly and sole­ly for the pur­pose of pur­su­ing such a course of study con­sis­tent with sec­tion 1184(l) [1]of this title at an estab­lished col­lege, uni­ver­si­ty, sem­i­nary, con­ser­va­to­ry, aca­d­e­m­ic high school, ele­men­tary school, or oth­er aca­d­e­m­ic insti­tu­tion or in an accred­it­ed lan­guage train­ing pro­gram in the Unit­ed States…
To be a for­eign stu­dent in the US, Oba­ma would have need­ed the fol­low­ing:

a Form IAP-66 (Exchange Vis­i­tor Cer­tifi­cate of Eli­gi­bil­i­ty, for insti­tu­tion to insti­tu­tion pro­grams) or a Form I‑20 (For­eign Stu­dent Cer­tifi­cate of Eli­gi­bil­i­ty) from the col­lege he would be attend­ing (the INS did not allow trans­fers from one insti­tu­tion to anoth­er);
a let­ter out­lin­ing the finan­cial sup­port he would be receiv­ing;
a pass­port from the for­eign coun­try he was claim­ing;
evi­dence of res­i­den­cy in the for­eign coun­try that he lived at and would return to;
evi­dence of edu­ca­tion­al back­ground includ­ing diplo­ma and tran­scripts;
evi­dence of finan­cial sup­port suf­fi­cient to demon­strate that he would not need to seek unau­tho­rized employ­ment in the Unit­ed States (such as an affi­davit of sup­port INS Form I‑34); and
an inter­view with a US con­sular offi­cer to demon­strate sin­cer­i­ty in going to the US to study and to DEPART the US to the orig­i­nat­ing coun­try after his study end­ed. (Source: Bound for the Unit­ed States: an intro­duc­tion to U.S. col­lege and uni­ver­si­ty life; Lin­da A. Reed et. al., Nation­al Asso­ci­a­tion for For­eign Affairs, 1982. 66 pages)

All the above would be need­ed to acquire a J‑1 visa that would allow him to remain in the US for the dura­tion of his pro­gram of study. A US cit­i­zen, US-dual cit­i­zen, or a US per­ma­nent res­i­dent is not eli­gi­ble to get a US visa.

Barack Oba­ma nev­er lost his US cit­i­zen­ship. QED, as a US cit­i­zen he was not eli­gi­ble to attend col­lege as a for­eign stu­dent.

FACT: Barack Oba­ma was­n’t eli­gi­ble for US aid as a for­eign stu­dent because he was a US cit­i­zen.

1. The pri­ma­ry fed­er­al stu­dent aid pro­gram for for­eign stu­dents study­ing in the US is the Ful­bright Pro­gram admin­is­tered by the US Depart­ment of State.

The Ful­bright For­eign Stu­dent Pro­gram enables grad­u­ate stu­dents, young pro­fes­sion­als, and artists from abroad to research and study in the Unit­ed States for one year or longer at U.S. uni­ver­si­ties or oth­er appro­pri­ate insti­tu­tions.
Barack Oba­ma was not eli­gi­ble for this pro­gram as an under­grad­u­ate stu­dent at Occi­den­tal Col­lege and Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty.

2. Oth­er fed­er­al stu­dent aid pro­grams such the Glob­al Under­grad­u­ate Exchange Pro­gram (found­ed in 1992) did­n’t exist when Oba­ma attend­ed under­grad­u­ate col­lege in 1979–1983.

Barack Oba­ma was not eli­gi­ble for any of the US for­eign stu­dent aid pro­grams. QED, he could not have attend­ed a US col­lege with US for­eign stu­dent aid.

FACT: Barack Oba­ma was­n’t eli­gi­ble for Indone­sian or Kenyan aid as a for­eign stu­dent because he was a US cit­i­zen.

Coun­tries such as Indone­sia and Kenya do not give out aid to every stu­dent who applies.
When aid is avail­able, it is reserved exclu­sive­ly for promis­ing stu­dents who will study abroad then return to the coun­try, often for a spec­i­fied num­ber of years.
Oba­ma attend­ed a US school from 1971 to 1979. He spoke no Swahili and had only a young child’s knowl­ege of Indone­sian. He lacked a res­i­den­t’s knowl­edge of those coun­tries. He was­n’t a cit­i­zen of either coun­try and had a US pass­port. He would be unable to get a US J‑1 visa for US study.

QED, nei­ther Indone­sia nor Kenya would have con­sid­ered Oba­ma for their lim­it­ed aid dol­lars.

Where did this Birther meme come from?

The first ref­er­ence we have found to the claim Barack Oba­ma attend­ed col­lege as a for­eign stu­dent is from a Sep­tem­ber 29, 2008 com­ment on the Cit­i­zen Well’s blog.

Anoth­er mat­ter is “Why” are his Col­lege Record’s being held by a Pri­vate Par­ty who will not release them. Could it be that he recieved schol­ar­ship grant’s as a For­eign Stu­dent…” (Spelling errors from the orig­i­nal.)

Pri­or to that entry there had been plen­ty of spec­u­la­tion on Birther sites that Oba­ma was a Kenya cit­i­zen, or an Indone­sian cit­i­zen or both — but none that he actu­al­ly attend­ed col­lege as a for­eign stu­dent. Dan Smith, the poster of this com­ment, at one time had planned an eli­gi­bil­i­ty law­suit against Oba­ma that was nev­er filed.

The meme hit the Birther world with the sem­i­nal Birther law­suit Berg v Oba­ma.

As with most Birther memes, the claim that Barack Oba­ma attend­ed col­lege as a for­eign stu­dent explod­ed from Berg v Oba­ma, the first Oba­ma eli­gi­bil­i­ty law­suit. This suit was filed by Attor­ney Philp J. Berg in Fed­er­al Dis­trict Court in Penn­syl­va­nia in August, 2008.

From the First Amend­ed Com­plaint filed on Octo­ber 6, 2008:

Plain­tiff is informed, believes and there­on alleges Oba­ma stat­ed his cit­i­zen­ship as Kenyan on his Col­lege Admis­sion forms to Occi­den­tal Col­lege, Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty and Har­vard Law School.”

That’s it. Noth­ing about for­eign stu­dent aid, noth­ing about why Oba­ma would apply as non-US cit­i­zen, noth­ing about apply­ing to col­lege as an Indone­sian cit­i­zen, noth­ing about why Berg believes this. This claim appears along with many oth­er Birther memes that have been proven false, such as the Pak­istan Trav­el Ban in 1981, Oba­ma lied on his Illi­nois Bar appli­ca­tion, Oba­ma is not a “nat­ur­al born” cit­i­zen, Oba­ma lost his cit­i­zen­ship when he was adopt­ed in Indone­sia, his Grand­moth­er claims she was present at his birth in Kenya, and many more.

Begin­ning in Jan­u­ary 2009, rumors again swirled in Birther­stan. Evi­dence that Oba­ma had attend­ed col­lege in Cal­i­for­nia as Bar­ry Soe­toro and proof could be found in the CA Assem­bly Dai­ly Jour­nal! As proof, these images were post­ed:

Page 1

Page 2

But as Doc­tor Con­spir­a­cy point­ed out on April 1, 2009 there were a few prob­lems with this “proof”. First, the stu­den­t’s name was Soe­toro Moestab­jab, not Bar­ry Soe­toro. Sec­ond, the stu­dent was from El Camino High School in Cal­i­for­nia, not Occi­den­tal Col­lege in Cal­i­for­nia. Third, the schol­ar­ship was from the Amer­i­can Field Ser­vice, an orga­ni­za­tion that links high school stu­dents in oth­er coun­tries with host fam­i­lies in the US, it does not pro­vide schol­ar­ships to col­lege stu­dents. But most impor­tant­ly, the date of the jour­nal was March 26, 1963. Not only could­n’t this Soe­toro be the 16 month old Barack Oba­ma, it also could­n’t be his future step­fa­ther Lolo Soe­toro, who was 28 in 1963. Once again, Birthers had researched via Google and failed to care­ful­ly exam­ine the results.


The For­eign Stu­dent meme hit the main­stream in late April 2009 with a viral email that began:


April 1, 2009

AP- WASHINGTON D.C. – In a move cer­tain to fuel the debate over Obama’s qual­i­fi­ca­tions for the pres­i­den­cy, the group “Amer­i­cans for Free­dom of Infor­ma­tion” has released copies of Pres­i­dent Obama’s col­lege tran­scripts from Occi­den­tal Col­lege. Released today, the tran­script indi­cates that Oba­ma, under the name Bar­ry Soe­toro, received finan­cial aid as a for­eign stu­dent from Indone­sia as an under­grad­u­ate at the school. The tran­script was released by Occi­den­tal Col­lege in com­pli­ance with a court order in a suit brought by the group in the Supe­ri­or Court of Cal­i­for­nia. The tran­script shows that Oba­ma (Soe­toro) applied for finan­cial aid and was award­ed a fel­low­ship for for­eign stu­dents from the Ful­bright Foun­da­tion Schol­ar­ship pro­gram. To qual­i­fy, for the schol­ar­ship, a stu­dent must claim for­eign cit­i­zen­ship. This doc­u­ment would seem to pro­vide the smok­ing gun that many of Obama’s detrac­tors have been seek­ing. … (Full email here.)

Thor­ough debunk­ings were quick­ly post­ed at Factcheck.org, Snopes.com, mediamatters.com, TruthOrFiction.com, About.com Urban Leg­ends, irregulartimes.com, and oth­er debunk­ing web­sites — but it was too late. The spoof had been and con­tin­ues to be post­ed on tens of thou­sands of web sites, chats, and boards with breath­less and hope­ful creduli­ty. This sin­gle email appears to be how the vast major­i­ty of believ­ers “learned” that Barack Oba­ma was a for­eign stu­dent and recieved a Ful­bright schol­ar­ship to study at Occi­den­tal col­lege.

A spoof-of-a-spoof site was quick­ly set up under the name “Amer­i­cans for Free­dom of Infor­ma­tion,” the non-exis­tant orga­ni­za­tion named in the email, which con­tin­ues to report on peo­ple and orga­ni­za­tions who fall for the spoof three years lat­er.


Barack Oba­ma was born a US cit­i­zen in Hon­olu­lu Hawaii. He attend­ed school in Jarkar­ta, Indone­sia for 4 years, then returned to Hawaii and attend­ed The Puna­hou School from grades 5–12. He attend­ed Occi­den­tal Col­lege in Los Ange­les, Cal­i­for­nia on a schol­ar­ship for two years, then trans­ferred to Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty in New York City for two years before grad­u­at­ing in 1983 with a BA in Polit­i­cal Sci­ence and a con­cen­tra­tion in Inter­na­tion­al Rela­tions. The only years he was a for­eign stu­dent and the only years he was known as Bar­ry Soe­toro were his 4 years in Indone­sia.

The Birther meme that Barack Oba­ma applied and/or attend­ed col­lege as a for­eign stu­dent is just rumor built on noth­ing.

Falsehoods Unchallenged Only Fester and Grow