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The Dartmouth
April 19, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Williams, Wesleyan make shift from loans to grants

Williams College and Wesleyan University each adopted new financial aid policies last week that dramatically decrease the amount of loans in financial aid packages, replacing them with grants. Both plans will take affect next fall.

Williams plans to contribute another $1.8 million per year in order to fully eliminate loans from financial aid packages, while Wesleyan will add $3.2 million to its current $35.4 million to eliminate loans for families with incomes under $40,000 and reduce loans for middle-income families.

Virginia Hazen, Dartmouth's director of financial aid, was unavailable to comment on Dartmouth's current efforts to expand the College's financial aid packages Wednesday. In 2005, Dartmouth eliminated loans for families with incomes under $30,000. The College has also worked to reduce loans for families with incomes under $45,000, the College's Web site reports.

Representatives from Williams and Wesleyan both touted the new plans as the next step in the schools' long-term efforts to improve financial aid.

"We have greatly reduced loans over the last five years, and this was the logical next step. We're fortunate to have both strong endowment and alumni giving which does allow for loans like this," Jim Kolesar, spokesman for Williams, said.

Wesleyan, which has an endowment of $772 million, is "doing more with less," spokesman David Pesci said.

Pesci said the university's new president, Michael Roth, who was inaugurated on Nov. 2, has already spoken to many alumni who have promised to contribute over $10 million in order to enact this new policy.

"We don't have the endowment to get rid of loans yet, but one of our long-stated goals has been to lower loans, and we've long been proud of our commitment to financial aid," Pesci said.

These policies join those already in place at some schools throughout the Ivy League, as well as at some liberal arts colleges. All of the Ivies, with the exception of Cornell and Brown, have eliminated loans for low-income families and greatly reduced loans for middle-income families within the past six years. In 2001, Princeton replaced all loans with grants -- a move no other Ivy has replicated.

Amherst College announced the elimination of loans from financial aid packages this past July, a program which will come into effect next fall.

"This past year the endowment performed very well, and part of the agreement of the trustees to move this way was because of the endowment. It's slightly over $1 million per student," Amherst's Director of Financial Aid Joe Paul Case said. "[The policy change] reflects partly the will of the trustees, not just resources. There has to be a commitment on the part of the institution to meet the need, and one hopes to be creative in the way it's met."

Many liberal arts institutions, including Middlebury College, Vassar College and Colgate University, do not have comparable policies in place, according to the institutions' Web sites.

Policy changes like those made at Williams and Wesleyan reflect a long process of reevaluating financial aid in colleges.

"We're also going to continue to address the actual formula for computing financial aid, making sure that many parts of that which were set up a long time ago are up to date with family circumstances," Kolesar said.