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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Carleton to implement student grant system via “Access Scholarships”

<llowing a financial aid trend initiated by peer institutions such as Williams, Grinnell, Pomona and Bowden, Carleton will this year increase spending with the goal of replacing student loans with student grants. Carleton’s 2007-2008 operating budget, approved last weekend by the board of trustees, includes $1 million towards “Access Scholarships” which will provide more outright tuition relief for families with total annual income of $75,000 or less. The funding increase will be initiated incrementally over four years, beginning with $250,000 available to members of the class of 2012.
The funding increase is notable because of its specific objective. Carleton’s financial aid budget increases every year to match a rising comprehensive fee, but the decision to target loans is a new policy for the school.

Director of Student Financial Services Rob Otto said that the decision to devote funding specifically to decreasing student loans came in part from long-existing concerns on campus about rising student debt burden. Last year the average Carleton student with a student loan graduated with $20,000 in debts. However, he said the most direct reason for the Access Scholarships was the move recently taken by other liberal arts colleges to completely eliminate student loans:

“[Political Science Professor] Roy Grow, who was the chair of the committee previously, had as one of his topics to see if we could lower the cumulative debt that students were leaving Carleton with. . . . What has more recently picked up the pace for us in looking at this issue has been some of the announcements of what some of our sister colleges are doing to not just lower, but eliminate student loans.”

After the trustees’ meeting last weekend, President Oden connected Carleton’s recent financial aid decision to an even larger revolution in financial aid started earlier this year when Harvard University announced that it would eliminate tuition for students coming from families making less than $60,000 a year, and greatly increase its grants for students with families making as much as $180,000 annually:

“Harvard, with its $36 billion endowment completely re-wrote the rules” he said. “There’s always been a gap between the haves and the have-nots with regard to financial resources of colleges and universities. What Harvard and a few other places have done is now exacerbated that gap so that [among Liberal Art’s schools] there’s Amherst, Williams, Pomona, Grinnell, Wellesley, and all the rest of us.”

With its endowment of just over $664 million, Carleton currently lacks the revenue to transforms its financial aid as much as Harvard, or even as much as some if its peer schools. However, Carleton’s capital campaign may soon put the school in a better position to compete. President Oden recently announced that the campaign is now at $186 million, and is poised to surpass its goal of $200 million by the end of this fiscal year.

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