Wright praised for new financial aid initiatives

by Ben Nunnery | 9/24/08 4:19am

Dartmouth announced extensive

reforms to the College's financial-aid

policy last January, including elimination

of tuition for families earning less

than $75,000 a year, following the

lead of the College's peer institutions,

which had earlier publicized similar

alterations to their own financial-aid

programs.

Under College President James

Wright's leadership, Dartmouth announced

that it would substitute all

loans with scholarships and promise

need-blind admission for international

students, effective fall 2008.

Dean of Admissions and Financial

Aid Maria Laskaris '84 said the new

initiatives addressed the concern

that Dartmouth was becoming out of

reach for lower- and middle-income

families.

"If we truly wanted a diverse student

body, we needed to think about our

financial aid and make sure we were

truly accessible to lower- and middleincome

families," she said. "President

Wright has been talking about this for

a while."

For the Class of 2012, the average

scholarship award is $33, 240, according

to Laskaris, with the total cost of

attendance estimated at $47,600.

In addition to the financial-aid

changes beginning with the Class of

2012, Dartmouth introduced two initiatives

to benefit current students. These

reforms include the reduction of loans

by 50 percent and the elimination of one

leave term's earning expectations for

all financial-aid students. Regarding

the leave term's earning elimination,

Wright said that there is "no comparison

to any other schools."

Wright said these changes give

students the opportunity to take

unpaid internships or research positions

during a leave-term without the

expectation of earning income. This

initiative will benefit the students in

the Class of 2010, as those who receive

financial aid will be exempt from the

leave-term expectation of $2,850 during

the summer between their junior and

senior years, according to Laskaris.

While the financial-aid reforms are

designed to make Dartmouth more

accessible to students, Wright said

there are still more steps to take and

mentioned class divide as a particular

area of concern. Laskaris said the

College is looking to improve the accessibility

of study-abroad programs

and other off-campus opportunities

for financial-aid students, alleviating

the class divide.

"As a college we need to continue to

look at these class issues and mitigate

them so students can take advantage

of everything the D-plan has to offer,"

she said.

Dartmouth's new financial-aid

initiatives are part of a larger wave

of aid reforms throughout the Ivy

League and other institutions across

the country. Universities such as Harvard,

Yale and Stanford have instituted

a 'parents-pay-nothing' policy in which

families earning under $60,000 do not

contribute to their child's tuition.

Such initiatives have prompted the

U.S. Senate to examine the endowments

and financial aid programs of

the 136 U.S. colleges with endowments

of $500 million or more. Dartmouth,

which has a $3.76 billion endowment,

received a letter from the Senate's

Committee on Finance in February

2008 and provided the committee with

the relevant financial data.

The committee may introduce

legislation that requires universities

to spend a minimum of five percent

of their endowment annually, which

would impede them from making

financial decisions motivated by selfinterest.

In a previous interview with

The Dartmouth, Adam Keller, Dartmouth's

executive vice president for

finance and administration, criticized

such a proposal.

""There is no self-interest in a

college governed by the Board of

Trustees," Keller said.

In a previous interview with The

Dartmouth, Wright said Dartmouth's

financial-aid program was "the strongest

in the nation."

"I think the Dartmouth financialaid

program compares favorably with

virtually all the private institutions I am

aware of," he said.

Since assuming the top position at

the College in 1998, President Wright

has worked to improve the financialaid

program and give more students

the opportunity to attend Dartmouth.

In 2004, the College replaced loans

with grants for families with incomes

of $30,000 or less, and partially for

families with incomes between $30,000

and $45,000.

"We have an obligation to provide

an opportunity to the best applicants

regardless of their capacity to pay,"

Wright said.