Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013 3:22 pm

After an 18-month community-wide discussion, the Grinnell College Board of Trustees has voted to retain the college's need-blind admission and financial aid policies—for now.

With the vote, the Board instructed the college to deploy new strategies that will enhance net tuition revenues and also affirm the college's commitment to need-blind admission and meeting 100 percent of demonstrated need.

The vote was announced by Grinnell's Board of Trustees at the conclusion of its regularly scheduled meeting on Saturday.

As a condition of the vote, the college will conduct an annual assessment of endowment performance, philanthropic support and net tuition revenue. The Board will decide by autumn 2015 whether the college is making sufficient progress toward fundraising and net tuition revenue goals. If the trustees determine that insufficient progress has been made, then they will have the option to instruct the college to pursue more aggressive enrollment management strategies, or may choose to end Grinnell's need-blind policy effective with the class enrolling at Grinnell in 2017.

Grinnell is generally listed among the nation's most affordable institutions, and the college's budget discussions were precipitated in large part by the uncertain long-term financial prospects of global investment markets. As of Jan. 31, 2013, Grinnell's endowment stood at $1.5 billion. Grinnell relies more heavily on its endowment than most institutions; Grinnell's endowment provides more than 50% of the college's operating budget. Grinnell currently takes 4% from its endowment returns annually to fund operations.

"This is the right decision for Grinnell at this time," said Raynard S. Kington, president of Grinnell College. "Grinnell has long maintained one of the most generous financial aid programs in the U.S. Our leadership in this area has allowed us to attract and enroll the most talented students from all over the world, and to provide them with an academic and co-curricular program that is among the very best in the nation. We are committed to keeping Grinnell affordable. By retaining our need-blind admission and financial aid policies, while resolving budgetary shortfalls through increased philanthropic support and net student revenues, we can maintain our simultaneous commitment to excellence and access, thus ensuring that a Grinnell education remains available to all for years to come."

The Grinnell Board's decision comes at the end of an open, 18-month discussion of the college's budget, the nation-wide financial outlook and available budget management strategies. Grinnell students, faculty, staff, alumni and parents were invited to participate in the discussion through e-mail, letters, in-person and online presentations, and a special website. Thousands of constituents took part in the discussion.

"We are gratified that so many Grinnellians chose to be part of this important conversation," said Clint Korver '89, chair of Grinnell's Board of Trustees. "We wanted to establish a process that was inclusive and participatory, reflecting the best values and traditions of Grinnell. The level of care and commitment to the college was evident in the feedback we received, and the ideas we heard from Grinnellians everywhere really shaped our thinking as we made our decision."

In order to secure the money needed to reduce budgetary shortfalls while remaining need-blind, Grinnell will implement a number of administrative changes designed to increase net student revenues, while also undertaking a complementary, sustained fundraising effort. Beginning in the 2013-14 academic year, the college will raise its loan cap, which is currently $3,000 for all four years, to $3,500 in the first year, $4,500 in the second year and $5,500 thereafter.

"Grinnell students currently graduate with less debt than students from any other accredited public or private college or university in Iowa, and with less debt than students from most of Grinnell's peer schools nationally," said Kington. "We believe that these upward adjustments in the loan cap will keep Grinnell among the most affordable colleges in the U.S., while providing added revenue that will support our programs in the years to come."

In addition, Grinnell will adopt measures that other colleges have long used to attract students who can contribute a greater share of resources.

"These strategies were chosen as part of a comprehensive, prudent plan addressing the Board's expectation that the college will increase net student revenues," said Joe Bagnoli, vice president of enrollment and dean of admission and financial aid. "The Board has given us a clear charge, and they join us in the hope that the college can address its structural imbalance by improving student revenues and increasing philanthropic support."

The college will also continue its efforts to control costs by realizing savings and maximizing efficiencies at every opportunity.

About Financial Aid at Grinnell
One of the nation's premier liberal arts colleges, Grinnell is also consistently included among the nation's "best value" colleges. Grinnell is one of just 45 U.S. educational institutions that remain need-blind, admitting students based solely on academic merit and without regard to financial need, and meeting 100 percent of the demonstrated need of every admitted student. Grinnell's discount rate—a calculation of the true amount the average student contributes toward to the comprehensive fee, as compared to the "list price" of tuition, room, board and fees—is one of the highest in the nation, second only to Harvard's, indicating Grinnell's extraordinarily strong commitment to meeting the full demonstrated need of all admitted students. Almost 90 percent of Grinnell students receive some form of financial aid, and the average financial aid award is $35,388. Grinnell students graduate with less debt than students from any other accredited public or private college or university in Iowa, and with less debt than students from most of Grinnell's peer schools nationally, making Grinnell one of the most affordable highly selective colleges or universities in the U.S.