PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Brown University has achieved its initial fundraising goal of $30 million to pave the way for replacing loans with scholarship funds in financial aid packages for all returning and incoming undergraduate students starting in the 2018-19 academic year. The move comes less than three months after launching an ambitious campaign to eliminate loans from all University-packaged undergraduate financial aid awards.
The ability to implement The Brown Promise: The Future of Financial Aid at Brown on such a rapid timeline is the direct result of an outpouring of support from members of the Brown community. With gifts ranging from $1 to others in the millions, a total of 2,087 donors have pledged their financial support since fundraising kicked off in September. The University is pushing forward to raise an additional $90 million to ensure the sustainability of the financial aid initiative.
“The response so far to The Brown Promise has been nothing short of phenomenal,” said Brown President Christina Paxson. “This initiative takes financial aid at the University to the next level, helping us do more for moderate-income students and families. It amplifies our commitment to bringing the best and brightest students to Brown regardless of their socioeconomic background.”
The elimination of loans from all University-packaged financial aid awards builds on a dedicated effort launched nearly 15 years ago to make a Brown education more accessible to students from all income backgrounds. The first step, in 2003, was a need-blind admission policy, which eliminated any consideration of an applicant’s ability to pay tuition from Brown’s undergraduate admission decisions for U.S. applicants.
By replacing all packaged loans with grant funds that do not have to be repaid, The Brown Promise represents the next major step. The move is a direct response to the challenges faced by families with moderate incomes, who often do not qualify for the generous financial aid offered to low-income families by Brown and some other universities, yet also do not have the full resources to cover the cost of attending college.
VIDEO: Our promise: To replace all loans with scholarships in all University packaged financial aid for Brown undergraduates.
Donors to the first phase of fundraising for the initiative span all ages and backgrounds, including Brown alumni across the generations — from the 1950s to the 2010s — along with members of the current senior class, parents and friends of the University.
One such alumna is Sue Buffum of the Class of 1974. She has long directed her philanthropic support to financial aid at Brown. She said she sees particular promise in The Brown Promise, however, to bring a greater diversity of talented students to College Hill and to encourage those students to pursue fulfilling, high-impact lives and careers rather than ones designed to repay loans.
“As the cost of a college education has risen, I’ve become concerned that middle-income students — like I was during my undergraduate years — were finding it more and more difficult to afford a Brown education and were choosing to go elsewhere,” Buffum said. “Other students become exclusively career-focused and feel pressure to earn money after graduation to pay off loan debt, but studying at Brown is also about exploring and finding your passions. The Brown Promise allows students to do just that and not be consumed by financial burden.”
That’s important to students like Conor Regan, a Class of 2018 undergraduate from Newburyport, Mass. Capitalizing on the flexibility of Brown’s Open Curriculum, he created his own philosophy, politics and economics concentration at Brown to integrate his own interests into a course of study that would also result in a unique set of skills and expertise.
“In a world where students are less reliant on loans, you’re going to have more people who are passionate about what they do ultimately,” Regan said. “When you’re not constrained financially, you’re able to pursue whatever you’re genuinely interested in. Long-term, I think that benefits the broader economy, and it’s better for Brown as well.”
Building on momentum
While the $30 million raised gives Brown the ability to replace loans in University financial aid packages for all returning and incoming students starting in the 2018-19 academic year, it marks only the start in a longer-term fundraising effort to ensure the initiative’s permanence.
In total, the new initiative requires an additional $4.5 million each year for the financial aid budget — $100 million in endowed funds, plus $20 million in “current-use” funds for use prior to income realized from investment returns on the endowment. To help future generations of students experience a Brown education with less debt, the University must raise the additional $90 million to reach the $120 million needed to fully fund the initiative.
“If the enthusiasm we’ve seen in the past few months is any indication, and having seen firsthand the power and dedication of the Brown community, I feel confident that we can rise to this challenge,” Paxson said.
Fundraising for The Brown Promise is part of the overall $500 million goal for undergraduate financial aid set in 2015 as part of the $3 billion BrownTogether campaign, which launched in 2015. Corporation member Theresia Gouw, a Class of 1990 graduate and longtime supporter of financial aid at Brown, says she knows members of the extended Brown community will continue to give to The Brown Promise.
“Wherever you were in the financial aid spectrum at the time you were in school, this initiative should resonate with you,” Gouw said. “When we were on campus, we were fortunate to experience the Open Curriculum and follow our academic interests. The Brown Promise will make that same experience more affordable for many undergraduates. This is a moment in time when Brown — and Brown’s alumni — can take a leadership role.”
The Brown Promise builds on a series of investments in financial aid the University has made to ensure that financial considerations do not prevent talented students who qualify for admission from choosing Brown.
Five years after the adoption of need-blind admissions for U.S. students, the University eliminated parent contributions for families with incomes below $60,000 and replaced loans with scholarships for students from families with incomes below $100,000. Today, Brown meets 100 percent of every undergraduate’s demonstrated financial need through grants, scholarships, loans and work/study employment. Donor support has been instrumental in turning each of those efforts into reality.
The elimination of loans in University financial aid packages through The Brown Promise will apply to all Brown undergraduates who receive financial aid. This will include members of next year’s incoming undergraduate class (the Class of 2022) as well as enrolled undergraduates returning to campus. It will apply to both domestic and international students.