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President and Provost: Increases in Financial Aid

Letter to Northwestern community

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March 3, 2016

The following memo was sent March 3, 2016, to members of the Northwestern University community from President Morton Schapiro and Provost Daniel Linzer.

We are very pleased to announce that Northwestern University will significantly increase financial aid for our students, eliminate loans for incoming undergraduate students and provide University-funded scholarships to undocumented students who are graduates of U.S. high schools. Northwestern has always sought to attract the best students in the world and provide them with the financial support needed to obtain a Northwestern education. As we develop our budget for the coming year, our key priorities include enhancing existing financial aid and developing new programs that will enable even more students who are from low- and middle-income families and who are first-generation college students to attend Northwestern.

A key part of the initiative is increased aid for undergraduate students. In the past five years, Northwestern has boosted financial aid for undergraduate students by 55 percent to approximately $160 million in 2016-17. The number of enrolled students eligible for federal Pell grants, which are available to students from low-income families, has increased to approximately 15 percent of last fall’s entering first-year class. Our goal is to have 20 percent of the entering class be Pell-eligible by the year 2020, as Northwestern is committed to increasing access for academically qualified students, regardless of their economic background.

The funds for the additional financial assistance will come from gifts to the University, endowment earnings and other sources. A total of $147.2 million in scholarship funding has already been contributed to the University through We Will. The Campaign for Northwestern.

For U.S. undergraduate students, Northwestern is one of a relatively small number of colleges and universities that are “need-blind,” meaning it considers students for admission without taking into account their ability to pay. Northwestern also meets full need, meaning that after a student’s ability to pay is calculated, the University provides all the funds necessary to cover the costs above what the student’s family is able to pay.

Key initiatives that Northwestern is now undertaking include:

  • All-grant financial aid packages. Beginning next fall, all entering first-year students who qualify for Northwestern grant assistance will be awarded aid packages without any loans. Their aid offer will include only grants, scholarships, summer earnings expectations and a work-study job opportunity. The all-grant aid package would enable students to graduate without incurring debt for their main educational expenses.
  • A cap on loan indebtedness for current students. Beginning with the 2016-17 academic year, Northwestern will award its Debt Cap Scholarship to Northwestern scholarship recipients who have need-based loans in excess of $20,000. Eligible students will be awarded the Debt Cap Scholarship in place of the loan component of their financial aid award.
  • Increased financial aid for undocumented students who are graduates of U.S. high schools. Beginning with next fall’s entering class, Northwestern will provide significantly increased financial assistance to academically qualified undocumented students who attended and graduated from a U.S. high school. Even though they have graduated from U.S. high schools, undocumented students are not eligible for federal grants and loans or State of Illinois grants. Northwestern will now provide the same University-funded scholarship assistance to qualified undocumented students that it does to U.S. citizens, using private funds to provide financial aid to support their studies. An increasing number of outstanding high school students are those who were brought to the U.S. as small children after being born in another country. Despite Congressional efforts to make college accessible and affordable to these students through the DREAM Act, this bill has not yet been enacted. Therefore, as part of its efforts to reach out to underserved communities, Northwestern will provide increased funds to enable these students to come here.
  • Increased financial support for undergraduate research experiences, unpaid internships and study abroad. Northwestern is making additional funds available for undergraduate students to participate in research projects, do internships or study abroad. The University will increase funding for such experiences.
  • Replacement of lost MAP funding. The Illinois Monetary Award Program (MAP), which provides tuition grants for low- and middle-income students, is not currently funded due to the lack of a state budget. Northwestern has assured all of its full-time undergraduate students that the University will replace the lost MAP funding with University funds this year. Approximately 500 Northwestern undergraduates receive a total of about $2.4 million in MAP grants. We continue to hope that the governor and the legislature can reach an agreement on a FY2016 budget and restore MAP funding, which supports Illinois students. In order to enable our students to continue without incurring additional costs, Northwestern will stretch its institutional resources to make up for the lost state funds.
  • Increased stipends for graduate students. Starting this academic year, Northwestern increased the base stipend paid to Ph.D. and MFA students in the Graduate School by 26 percent, to $29,000 a year. The move was designed to enhance the quality of student life for graduate students.
  • Increased financial aid for international students. A portion of the $100 million gift made by alumna Roberta Buffett Elliott ’54 last year will help endow scholarships for international students. Up to $20 million of the gift could be used as a matching challenge grant to donors who will endow scholarships benefiting international students.
  • Increased financial assistance for law school students and young alumni. Northwestern Pritzker School of Law recently unveiled a series of initiatives to make law school more affordable and support recent law grads. Funded through giving by law school alumni and friends, including the historic $100 million gift from J.B. and M.K. Pritzker, the initiatives include assisting students with interest payments on loans incurred during law school, providing support for summer public interest internships and other measures.
  • Increased emphasis on financial aid for medical students. Currently about 50 percent of Feinberg School of Medicine students receive some type of scholarship support. Increasing scholarship support is a top fundraising priority for Feinberg in order to reduce the amount of debt that medical students incur, thereby allowing them to choose a career path determined by interest rather than potential income.
  • Increasing scholarships for business students. Across its various programs, the Kellogg School of Management has increased scholarships for students. Those efforts to provide additional support will continue.

These new initiatives, along with other programs already in place, reaffirm the University’s commitment to making a Northwestern education accessible to qualified students from all economic backgrounds. With your assistance, we also will continue to strengthen our efforts to make Northwestern a welcoming and inclusive community for all students.

Thank you.

Morton Schapiro, President and Professor

Daniel Linzer, Provost and Professor

Topics: University News