Grinnell’s new financial aid policy attracts students

In January, Grinnell College initiated a policy to cap student loans at $12,000 over the course of all four years. This is the first time a private college in Iowa has adopted such a policy, which has already been adapted by top-tier schools like Harvard, Princeton and Stanford. All demonstrated need over the $12,000 amount is paid for by the College. According to the Office of Student Financial Aid, this is on top of a “need-blind” admission policy, admitting students regardless of ability to pay and meeting “100 percent of demonstrated need for all admitted domestic students.” “Grinnell is in an unusual situation in terms of its large endowment, and we can certainly afford to arrange for all needy students to have no debt,” said Jim Sumner, senior counselor for Grinnell’s Office of Admissions and Financial Aid, in the Iowa Journal. Grinnell’s $1.7 billion endowment is the third largest among the nation’s private liberal arts colleges. “[Grinnell] was a really expensive school and I almost didn’t go there just because of the price compared to some other schools, so [financial aid] made a big difference. [Grinnell] had a really big endowment and so they were able to give me more money,” said senior Kayla Ranney, who plans to attend Grinnell in the fall, majoring in economics. “I actually really didn’t know about [the size of financial aid] until I got my acceptance letter back and the offer they gave me for financial aid.” Ranney would have attended the University of Iowa or Iowa State if it were not for the new policy. “The College’s admission and aid policies are designed to attract top students to campus and to ensure they have the financial flexibility after their education to pursue meaningful careers as responsible contributors to the greater good of their communities,” the Office of Student Financial Aid announced. The change not only makes Grinnell more competitive with comparable schools like Swarthmore and Carleton, but also with Iowa’s Regents universities. Although the average fees and tuition rates of the three universities are lower than the national averages for public universities and colleges, the lower costs mean that more is passed onto students in the form of student loans. The financial burdens on Iowa’s college graduates are among the highest in the country. Last year, a typical graduate of the Regents universities had a debt of $25,210, the Iowa Legislative Services Association found. In all, Iowa was sixth in the nation for the largest average debt upon graduation from a four-year institution ($22,926) and second for the number of graduates with a loan (74%). Grinnell’s change represents a reversal among this upward trend in student debt. It may also represent an awareness of the debt that many Ames High graduates face and will continue to face in the future.