By Eva Hill
All needs-based loans that are part of financial aid at Grinnell College will be replaced by grants starting in the fall of 2021, according to an email to all students from College President Anne Harris sent this morning. . The “no loan” initiative has been approved by the board of trustees and aims “to reduce the debt burden on our students,” Harris wrote in the email.
Harris said the initiative is a response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the financial pressures it has placed on students. The initiative is expected to cost around $ 5 million per year (the announcement email says the College has spent more than $ 10 million in the past year in response to “unforeseen student needs” resulting from the pandemic) .
“Equitable access to a Grinnell education is a powerful principle to uphold, and I am very honored to work with a team that has done just that,” Harris told S&B, noting that the initiative will enable Grinnell students without federal loans that begin in 2021 for a debt-free degree.
According to American News and World Report, 61% of Grinnell graduate students in the most recently surveyed class (2019) had taken out some form of loan from college or private or federal sources, with an average total debt per student of $ 20,093. The median federal debt for a Grinnell graduate student that year was $ 17,000.
Need-based ‘loan-less’ financial assistance is offered by a small but growing contingency schools in the United States, most of which are high-level or otherwise prestigious institutions. In 2001, Princeton University was the first to make the switch; since then other major colleges and universities have followed including Columbia, Brown, Harvard, Pomona, Stanford, Swarthmore, Yale, UPenn, Vanderbilt and Amherst.
The Grinnell Financial Aid Office will continue to provide additional loan options to families outside of need-based aid, the email said.
Updated Nov 17, 11:53 a.m.: Additional background information added on Loan-Free Aid at U.S. Institutes of Higher Education.
Reporting by Seth Taylor.