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FAQ - Expanded Aid Program

Why is Vanderbilt doing this?

Vanderbilt's commitment to accessibility and affordability for admitted students is not new. Beginning in 2001, Vanderbilt made debt-reduction a top priority. The initiative to replace all need-based undergraduate student loans with grant and scholarship assistance caps the university's important long-term focus on accessibility.

Reducing undergraduates' education-related debt is the right thing to do. When barriers to a Vanderbilt education can be reduced or eliminated, every student benefits from a learning community that includes talented, qualified individuals from all backgrounds.

When will this take effect – and who will benefit?

The expanded aid program began in fall 2009 for all undergraduate students (new and returning) whose financial aid packages would have normally included need-based loans to meet demonstrated need. Students now receive additional Vanderbilt grant and/or scholarship assistance to meet their demonstrated need. The end result is that, in addition to a realistic academic year earnings expectation, all need-based aid packages now include scholarships and/or grants (gift) assistance in place of need-based loans.

Will current students benefit from this program?

Current Vanderbilt students benefit from this program. However, based upon our previous debt reduction initiatives, many currently enrolled students already have their demonstrated financial need met with gift assistance from a variety of sources, so not every student's financial aid award was changed.

It is additionally important to note that Vanderbilt has already made targeted investments to significantly reduce student loans as part of its financial aid packages for all of our current undergraduates. These students are the beneficiaries of a debt reduction program that began in 2001, which resulted in a decrease of average indebtedness by approximately 17% at graduation, as of spring 2008. This occurred while the cost of attending Vanderbilt increased approximately 5% annually.

Prior to the 2009-2010 implementation of the expanded aid program, all seniors set to graduate in May 2009 had their need-based loans for the spring 2009 semester replaced with Vanderbilt grant and/or scholarship assistance.

A college education has great value – so why is it such a bad thing to take out some loans for something so important?

Substantial debt for new college graduates can limit their potential. The prospect of re-paying student loans can lead some accepted students to decline their offer of admission from Vanderbilt, even when Vanderbilt was their first choice. Also, undergraduate students with significant loan debt will often abandon dreams of future studies in graduate or professional school, or forego particular career choices. The need to pay off student loans can become a real barrier for graduates who desire to teach, practice medicine in an under-served community, or work in a non-profit or service agency, among many other career choices.

It is important to note that this initiative doesn't make Vanderbilt cost-free. While Vanderbilt will replace need-based loans with grants/scholarships in financial aid packages, there will still be an expected family contribution for most students. Some families will choose to meet this contribution with loans. Likewise, some students may choose to take out loans to replace the earnings expectation included as part of their financial aid package.

Will Vanderbilt remain need-blind in its admissions process?

The admissions process at Vanderbilt is need-blind for U.S. citizens and eligible non-citizens. Your ability to pay is not factored into admission decisions.

How will this initiative affect admissions to Vanderbilt? What about legacy applicants — children and grandchildren of Vanderbilt's alumni?

Interest in Vanderbilt continues to grow every year, with a corresponding rise in the number of applications. It is realistic to expect that this initiative will bring increased interest – especially from young people who may not have thought they could afford to attend Vanderbilt in the past.

Each candidate for admission will continue to receive a holistic review, based on a wide range of factors, including academic performance, test scores, extracurricular activities, essays, personal statements, and letters of recommendation. Our comprehensive, holistic approach to the admissions process will not change with this initiative.

Vanderbilt alumni and their families are valued members of the Vanderbilt community. The university views legacy status as one of the many factors considered in Vanderbilt's holistic review process.

Will Vanderbilt have to cut or scale back other programs to pay for this initiative?

No. Through careful budget strategy and philanthropy, Vanderbilt has significantly reduced student debt without compromising other programs. This initiative continues that approach.

This initiative is about financial need – but what about merit scholarships that are only based on academics and credentials?

Vanderbilt attracts many of the best students in the country, and many of them have some level of financial need. In fact, just as the overall quality of our entering classes has increased dramatically, so too has the percentage of students with financial need. While merit scholarships will continue to be awarded, need-based funding sources provide Vanderbilt with the ability to enroll students with exceptional credentials and financial need. Information regarding merit scholarship opportunities at Vanderbilt can be found at

Will the amount of financial assistance I receive each year remain the same?

While Vanderbilt's costs may increase from year to year, if a family's circumstances (income, assets, family size, number of family members in college, etc.) remain relatively unchanged, students can expect to receive a comparable amount of assistance during the upper-class years. The earnings expectation may increase slightly as a student progresses through their undergraduate career.

At times, however, there are situations that may increase or decrease a family's demonstrated financial need which will affect the overall amount of financial assistance. For example, a family may experience a decrease in demonstrated need if the number of college students in the household decreases. Should the number of college students in the household decrease from two to one, the demonstrated need will typically decrease by 40%. If a parental change in job results in an increase or decrease in annual income, the student's demonstrated need will be impacted. If a student's parent loses their job anytime during the academic year, then a re-evaluation of financial need may be appropriate. The parent or student is encouraged to call the financial aid office to discuss their circumstances.

How is "demonstrated financial need" determined?

Eligibility for need-based financial assistance is determined by subtracting a family's calculated Expected Family Contribution (EFC) from Vanderbilt's estimated Cost of Attendance (COA). The difference is called "demonstrated financial need." The EFC is determined by using Vanderbilt's institutional methodology that utilizes the data collected on the College Scholarship Service (CSS) Financial Aid PROFILE.

Is our family income too high to qualify for need-based assistance?

Financial assistance is more widely available than some families expect. Applicants from a range of socio-economic backgrounds may be eligible for need-based assistance. We understand that each family has unique circumstances that warrant consideration for financial assistance.

There is no specific income that will automatically disqualify a family from receiving need-based at Vanderbilt. Income is only one consideration when determining eligibility for need-based financial aid. Other factors include, but are not limited to, family size; number of children in college; private elementary and secondary tuition expenses; and family assets. There is no income cap on eligibility for need-based assistance, and even families with incomes in excess of $200,000 may qualify for need-based assistance.

For the 2011-2012 year, approximately 46% of all Vanderbilt undergraduate students were determined to have financial need and were offered financial assistance. Also, for the same academic year, over 60% of all Vanderbilt undergraduate students receive financial assistance of some kind, be it from Vanderbilt, federal, state or other sources.

Do you require students to also apply for federal financial assistance?

In addition to completing the College Scholarship Service PROFILE form, we do require that students complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to be considered for financial aid other than merit-based assistance. The FAFSA information allows us to determine a student's potential eligibility for certain federal aid programs and helps us to maximize the overall types and amounts of aid that can then be offered to each applicant.

What do you mean by "eliminating need-based loans?"

In the past, we typically awarded various types of need-based loans to help meet a student's demonstrated financial need. With this new initiative, the amount of need-based loans a student would have been offered in the past to meet demonstrated financial need is now replaced with additional Vanderbilt scholarship and/or grant (gift) assistance.

What do you mean by no "income bands" or "cutoffs?"

There is no specific income that will automatically disqualify a family from receiving need-based assistance at Vanderbilt. Income is only one consideration when determining eligibility for need-based financial assistance. Other factors include, but are not limited to, family size; number of children in college; private elementary and secondary tuition expenses; and family assets.

What types of assistance will be used to meet the demonstrated financial need?

The typical need-based financial aid award that Vanderbilt offers to eligible undergraduate students now consists of a combination of grants, scholarships, and employment opportunities/expectations.

Grants and scholarships come from various sources including Vanderbilt, federal, state, and private entities. These funds are considered "gift" assistance and do not have to be repaid. Employment opportunities offer students a chance to gain valuable work experience in addition to receiving a paycheck for their hours worked during the academic year.

Loans are no longer included in financial aid packages based upon our new initiative of replacing need-based loans with grant assistance. Under certain conditions and based upon individual family circumstances or desires, however, loans from federal and other sources may ultimately be made available to students upon their request to replace any employment expectation in their award or to replace some portion of their family's expected contribution.

Can students find jobs on or near campus?

Yes. There are many jobs available for Vanderbilt students, both on-campus and in the surrounding business community.

Student employment opportunities on campus range from dining hall duties to work in Vanderbilt's libraries, hospitals, laboratories and offices. Students have also earned money on campus as teaching assistants, sportswriters, computer programmers, lifeguards and research assistants, to cite a few examples. Students who work on-campus are paid directly by Vanderbilt, typically on a bi-weekly basis.

Jobs are also available in the many businesses in the Nashville area. Through "Hire-A-Dore" (, our online job bank, many local businesses post job openings that represent off-campus work opportunities for Vanderbilt students.

Many students find that they can work an average of eight to twelve hours per week, excel academically, and also participate in a range of extracurricular activities. More information can be found at our Student Employment website.

If I decide not to participate in student employment, can I obtain a loan instead?

Yes. Under certain conditions and based upon individual family circumstances or desires, loans from federal and/or other sources may ultimately be made available to students upon their request to replace any earnings expectation in their award or to replace some portion of their family's expected contribution.

How will outside sources of assistance affect my financial aid package?

Historically, many Vanderbilt students have been very successful in obtaining outside scholarships/sources of assistance. These outside scholarships/sources of assistance must be taken into account as part of a student's total need-based aid package and cannot be counted as part of the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). If an adjustment to a need-based financial aid package is necessary, the outside scholarship will be used first to replace a student's earnings expectation before reducing Vanderbilt need-based assistance.

Am I eligible for this program and other need-based assistance as an international student?

No. To be eligible for this program and other need-based financial assistance at Vanderbilt, you must be either a U.S. Citizen or eligible non-citizen. An eligible non-citizen is a student who meets the qualifications to receive assistance through the federal financial aid programs. A limited amount of scholarship assistance is available for international students. Competition for these funds is intense, and we are not able to offer financial aid to every international student who would be successful at Vanderbilt. Information regarding international student admissions and financial aid can be found on the Admissions website.