Thanks to a $100 million donation received on Wednesday, Brown University will be able to lessen the debt some of its students face after graduation.
Just one year after Brown implemented a need-blind admissions policy, the gift, donated by Sidney Frank, a New York businessman and a member of Brown’s class of 1942, will establish a scholarship fund that will eliminate loans for the university’s neediest students.
The Sidney E. Frank Endowed Scholarship Fund has enabled the university to take the next step toward making its educational experience more affordable, Brown spokesman Mark Nickel said.
“The prospect of going into debt puts a damper on people’s aspirations,” he said. “[The gift] makes a Brown education available and accessible to a much larger group of students.”
Members of Brown’s class of 2009 with family incomes of $30,000 or less will be designated Sidney E. Frank Scholars, President Ruth Simmons wrote in an e-mail sent to the entire Brown community on Wednesday. These students, who are currently expected to borrow between $9,000 and $15,000 over the course of their careers at Brown, will receive scholarship funds in place of loans, Simmons wrote.
The students will still be expected to contribute to tuition costs through family contributions and work study programs, Simmons wrote.
The university has estimated that within four years, about 128 students spanning all four undergraduate classes will be designated as Sidney E. Frank Scholars, Nickel said.
Between 2,300 and 2,500 students last year were loan applicants, Brown Financial Aid Director Michael Bartini said. The average debt incurred by Brown graduates in 2003 was $15,000, he said.
Yale Financial Aid Director Myra Smith said the ability to reduce loans is “all a matter of” resources and gift aid.
“That’s what’s spectacular about Brown’s gift,” she said. “It gave them the resources [to eliminate loans].”
Yale’s decision in 2002 to reduce the self-help portion of students’ financial aid packages to $4,200 has lowered student debt, Smith said.
According to a 2003 independent college overview done by Peterson’s, a college service provider, the average indebtedness of Yale students upon graduation was $16,911.
Yale reduced students’ self-help contributions by allocating more funds to the grant budget, Smith said.
Although Smith said Yale was not likely to follow in Brown’s footsteps any time soon, she said the University is always attentive to the “stressors” of its students and will try to adjust its financial aid program accordingly from year to year. Yale must continue to emphasize to prospective students the value of the education it offers, she said.
“We have to communicate the value of the investment and the possibility of it to students in their sophomore or junior year of high school,” she said.