Wesleyan Replaces Loans with Grants for Neediest Students

Posted 11/05/07
Wesleyan University will eliminate loans for its neediest undergraduates and replace these with additional grants, President Michael S. Roth has announced. The policy will be part of a new initiative to reduce overall student indebtedness by 35 percent to make Wesleyan even more accessible to students regardless of their financial capacity.

“Access to a Wesleyan education for students from all backgrounds has long been one of the core values of this community,” Roth says. “It remains one of our highest priorities. As I begin my presidency, I see this new effort as a down payment on our goal to endow financial aid and need-blind admission more fully in the next campaign.” Roth was formally inaugurated as Wesleyan’s 16th president at ceremonies on campus on Nov. 2.

Beginning with the first-year class enrolling in the fall of 2008, most students whose total family incomes are $40,000 per year or less will receive an aid package that substitutes grants for any loan obligation. Beginning with the same class, all other students who receive aid will graduate with a four-year total loan indebtedness reduced by an average of 35 percent. Aid packages will include a single student loan, the federally subsidized Stafford Loan. The interest rates for Stafford Loans are among the lowest available.

Wesleyan will raise endowment sufficient to fund the $3.2 million annual cost of this initiative. In fact, preliminary conversations with Wesleyan donors about the goal of reducing student indebtedness already have yielded over $10 million in new commitments to student aid, Roth reported.

Wesleyan admits students without regard to their financial circumstances and then provides a financial aid package that meets each student’s full demonstrated need. Forty percent of its 2,900 students currently receive grant aid. The average grant is $27,151. Wesleyan currently budgets $35.4 million of its own resources annually for grant aid for undergraduates. Federal and state sources contribute an additional $2.7 million.

Since the 1960s, Wesleyan has aggressively pursued diversity in the form of affirmative action and need-blind admissions.

Thirteen percent of Wesleyan students currently receive Pell grants; the federal Pell Grant Program provides need-based grants to low-income undergraduate students to promote access to postsecondary education.

Wesleyan also is celebrating the 40th anniversary of its Upward Bound program. Upward Bound is an educational opportunity outreach program supported through federal TRIO funding, as well as through grants from Connecticut Department of Education and the boards of education of the Middletown, Meriden and Portland schools; it provides fundamental support to low-income students in their preparation for college. Wesleyan recently received a TRIO grant to establish a Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program focused on students in the sciences; the McNair program prepares students from disadvantaged backgrounds and who have demonstrated high academic potential for doctoral studies through involvement in research and other scholarly activities.

By Justin Harmon, vice president of Public Affairs