Dartmouth College announced a plan yesterday to reduce student loan and work expectations, becoming the fourth school this year to make major financial aid changes.

Dartmouth’s $1.6 million plan contains aspects of plans announced in the last three months by Harvard University, Princeton University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dartmouth’s plan will allocate the largest grants to students from the lowest income brackets. Yale officials said the University has no plans to announce a change in its financial aid policy this year, but that they will likely announce one next year.

“Everyone wants to be competitive,” Yale Dean of Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid Richard Shaw said. “We’re going to undertake [an] analysis [of Yale’s aid policy.]”

Shaw said yesterday that he was much less surprised by Dartmouth’s move than he was when he heard in late January of Princeton’s plan to eliminate student loans.

“I guess I’m not surprised by anything I see,” Shaw said. “I used to be surprised.”

About 40 percent of Dartmouth students receive aid, but the new grants — typically worth about $2,000 each year — will affect only the freshman class next year.

Typical freshmen on financial aid will have their loan expectation reduced by between $1,225 and $1,500 each year. This means students from families with incomes less than $45,000 will have no loans their freshman year.

Freshmen will also receive a $250 reduction of summer earning expectation and a $275 reduction in the academic year self-help expectation. Upperclassmen will have their summer earning expectations reduced by $200.

These changes together add up to about $2,000 for the typical student on aid in the Dartmouth class of 2005, a package improvement that nearly matches Harvard’s across-the-board grants of $2,000.

But Harvard’s plan allows students to divide the $2,000 between work and loans however they choose while Dartmouth lays out specific amounts.

Dartmouth moves away from an across-the board philosophy embraced both by Harvard’s plan and Princeton’s no-loan plan. The Dartmouth loan changes are graduated by parental income, meaning that students with more need will receive the greatest grant increases.

Dartmouth’s announcement continues the second major round of Ivy League financial aid changes in the last few years. In 1998 Princeton announced changes targeting relief for students of middle-income families. Harvard, MIT, Yale and Dartmouth followed the announcement with similar packages. Dartmouth’s 1998 change cost $2.5 million and brought their financial aid distribution up to $30 million per year.

Dartmouth’s Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Karl Furstenberg said Dartmouth did not seek to follow the most recent announcements exactly, according to The Dartmouth.

“It’s not economically possible,” he said to the student paper. “What Princeton has done — they’re in a different category than everyone else. And Harvard has made some large adjustments. But other than those two schools, Dartmouth is just as generous as anyone else.”

With acceptance letters being sent out this week to admitted students, attracting students is clearly on the minds of admissions officials.

“It should convey to current students and prospective students that Dartmouth cares,” Furstenberg told The Dartmouth.