Home » Arts and Science NotebookFall 2008

New Financial Aid Program Offers Access, Opportunity

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Financial aid packages for undergraduates will not contain need-based student loans.

In a historic move that strengthens its dedication to accessibility and affordability, Vanderbilt announced last month that it will eliminate need-based loans from financial aid packages offered to eligible undergraduates. Starting in fall 2009, the amount of need-based loans normally included in undergraduate financial aid awards for new and returning students will be replaced with Vanderbilt grants and scholarships. In addition, seniors slated to graduate in May 2009 will have their need-based loans for the spring 2009 semester replaced with grant and scholarship assistance.

“This underscores Vanderbilt’s commitment to the belief that ability, achievement and hard work—not a family’s financial status—should determine access to a great education,” said Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos of the historic move. “When financial barriers to a Vanderbilt education are reduced or eliminated, Vanderbilt becomes a more dynamic environment for everyone. Every student benefits from the enriched community composed of highly talented and qualified students of all economic, cultural and geographic backgrounds.”

Provost Richard McCarty noted that Vanderbilt will continue to be one of only a few U.S. universities that employs a “need-blind” admissions approach and additionally guarantees to meet each student’s demonstrated financial need. “We will continue to make admission decisions based on such factors as character, academic strength and leadership skills, but not on a family’s income level or ability to pay,” McCarty said.

No Income Cap for Families

Unlike some other leading universities which have either reduced or eliminated need-based loans solely for low- and/or middle-income families, Vanderbilt will eliminate them for all students who qualify for need-based financial assistance, based on a holistic review of individual family circumstances. In determining a student’s demonstrated financial need, Vanderbilt takes into account each student’s individual family circumstances and all educational costs such as tuition, fees, housing, meals, books and course materials, plus allowances for personal and travel expenses. 

The fall 2009 program will apply to all need-based loans for new and returning undergraduate students. 

Debt Reduction A Priority 

The university started an initiative to reduce students’ education-related debt approximately seven years ago. That initiative has already resulted in the reduction of average overall indebtedness of graduating seniors by 17 percent. The additional funds needed to fully replace need-based loans will come from institutional reallocations and from earnings on an additional $100 million to be raised in new scholarship endowment over the next several years. A top priority of Vanderbilt’s ongoing Shape the Future campaign has been, and will continue to be, increased scholarship support. Vanderbilt will specifically seek philanthropic gifts from alumni and friends for this initiative. 

In addition to encouraging students to consider Vanderbilt who might not have otherwise, the initiative will also allow students to pursue further education or career options that they might not have considered if they had need-based student loan debt. 

Reaction on campus and in the College of Arts and Science was swift and positive. “Put simply, our investment in a no-loan policy is both good business and right business,” said Carolyn Dever, interim dean of the College of Arts and Science. “Good business because it will enable us to attract the best students regardless of their means. Right business because the College of Arts and Science benefits from the socioeconomic diversity of its student body. The impact goes even further: our society benefits from the freedom of young Vanderbilt alumni to choose any career path without the burden of student-loan debt. We’re excited about what this means for our students and the entire expanded Vanderbilt community.”

For more information, visit www.vanderbilt.edu/expandedaidprogram.

photo credit: John Russell

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