Brown joins Ivy trend, re-evaluating parental contributions in financial aid

Brown University will no longer require a financial parental contribution from most families earning under $60,000, the university announced Saturday.

In a move that follows recent financial-aid announcements by five Ivy League schools, Brown will eliminate loans from the aid packages of families making less than $100,000 per year. The university will also reduce loan expectations for all students who receive financial aid, according to a statement on the university’s Web site.

These changes will increase the university’s financial-aid budget to $68.5 million next year, from $57 million. Yale’s financial-aid budget for next year stands at $86 million.

Brown has roughly 10 percent more undergraduates than Yale.

“We recognize and understand the concerns of America’s families about the rising cost of higher education,” Brown University President Ruth Simmons said in the statement. “With our new aid package and a smaller increase in tuition, we hope to address their concerns in a fiscally responsible manner while continuing to attract the best students with diverse backgrounds to Brown.”

In the past three months, six out of the eight Ivy League schools — along with Stanford University — have announced new financial aid initiatives.

In December, Harvard announced that it would dramatically reduce the expected parental contribution from middle and upper-middle-income families and eliminate the need for student loans. Yale came forward with a similar policy in January.

Over the weekend, Yale administrators commended Brown’s new financial aid program but maintained that Yale’s aid initiative remains ahead of the pack.

“Our own program still stands at the very forefront of the recent wave of financial aid announcements,” Dean of Admissions Jeff Brenzel said in an e-mail. “This announcement is both good news for Brown and for families of modest means. I hope that all school presidents and trustees who wish to commit resources in this way will find they are able to do so.”

Yale will require no parental contribution from families making less than $60,000 annually, while families making between $60,000 and $120,000 will pay up to 10 percent, on average, of their income toward tuition and other costs. Families making between $120,000 and $200,00 will be asked to pay on average 10 percent of income.

Yale, like Harvard, also eliminated the need for all student loans.

Director of Student Financial Services Caesar Storlazzi speculated that Brown’s decision to extend its financial aid generosity to “most” families earning under $60,000 may be in anticipation of possible loopholes.

“My thinking about their use of the word, “most,” is that they felt they should allow for professional judgement in these cases; for example, when an under-$60,000 family has strong assets of $1 million or more,” he said in an e-mail. “That’s just my suspicion.”

Brown also announced Saturday that it would increase total undergraduate charges — including room, board and tuition — by 3.9 percent, bringing the total to $47,740.

Yale announced in January that it would tie its increase in tuition, room and board charges next year to the expected level of consumer price inflation, 2.2 percent. Tuition, room and board for the 2007-’08 school year total $45,000.

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