Grinnell College Increases Financial Aid Budget to $30 Million
The Grinnell College Board of Trustees voted this weekend to dramatically increase the College's grant-based financial aid budget by $4.5 million this fall. The move reflects the College's longstanding commitment to need-blind admission and accessibility for academically qualified students.
The 17.4 percent increase in Grinnell's financial aid budget is forecast to cost about $30 million in 2008-09, or approximately 26 percent of the College's gross annual operating budget.
"Grinnell College has long believed that financial resources should not prevent academically qualified and admitted students from attending," said President Russell K. Osgood, "and our new financial aid packaging will go further by reducing the financial burdens that might otherwise tend to limit the choices of our talented graduates."
According to Osgood, the increase in financial aid is not a new idea; it is part of a multi-year strategy rooted in the College's 2002 Strategic Plan.
"Grinnellians tell us their experience here opens vast horizons for their lives. We want our graduates to be able to pursue their dreams and goals - to make a difference in the world. Students with burdensome debt are not as likely to pursue career choices that align with their aspirations and maximize their impact in the world," said Osgood.
The complete restructuring of financial aid packaging, some of which was adopted last year and the year before, includes:
- Capping need-based loans at $2,000 per year
- Significantly increasing funding to reduce loans at graduation
- Omitting any student's required financial contribution for one summer if he or she engages in a socially worthwhile or educationally relevant activity
- A more generous definition of demonstrated need
- Improving aid for international students
- Increasing expense allowances
- Indexing merit aid awards by the percentage of comprehensive fee increases while enrolled
Grinnell College awards financial aid to 89 percent of its students - a higher percentage than is seen at many of the College's peer institutions. According to figures found on those institutions' respective websites, about 70 percent of Harvard undergraduates receive some sort of aid and 62 percent at Yale receive financial assistance of some kind. Swarthmore and Amherst are at 70 percent and 66 percent.
Osgood said Grinnell is not completely eliminating all loans from its financial aid packages because Grinnell believes students will be more engaged with their education if they have a personal financial stake in it.
"Our decision to cap loans is based on our belief that investing in oneself is tremendously important," Osgood said. "Grinnell College values hard work and personal commitment. We want students who will make a personal investment of time and effort in their own futures, which we believe will better prepare them for more successful futures."
Grinnell encourages students to work on a limited basis during the school year as well as during the summer. According to the widely referenced book How College Affects Students: Findings and Insights from Twenty Years of Research, students' academic performances can be enhanced by working, particularly if the hours are limited and the work takes place on campus.
Additionally, under the new plan, students will be able to spend one summer working at an internship or volunteer job, and the College will eliminate their expected summer earnings contribution for that summer.
Students who have worked and performed well academically will be eligible for loan forgiveness in their senior year.
Taken together, Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Seth Allen says these efforts reflect Grinnell's strong belief in the value of a liberal arts education and the College's dedication to making such an education accessible to students.
"We want our students to believe in themselves as much as we believe in them," said Allen. "This effort will help students graduate with less debt and provide them with the opportunity to build upon their aspirations, idealism, and hard work."