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The Scarlet & Black

Grinnell College will replace need-based loans with scholarships


All need-based loans that are part of financial aid at Grinnell College will be replaced by grants starting fall 2021, per an all-student email from College President Anne Harris sent out this morning. The “no-loan” initiative has been endorsed by the Board of Trustees and is intended “to lower the debt burden on our students,” Harris wrote in the email.

Harris said that the initiative is a response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the financial stresses it has placed on students. The initiative is expected to cost an estimated $5 million annually (the announcement email notes that the College has spent over $10 million over the past year in response to “unanticipated student needs” resulting from the pandemic).

“Equitable access to a Grinnell education is a powerful principle to uphold, and I’m so honored to work with a team that has done just that,” Harris told The S&B, noting that the initiative will allow Grinnell students without federal loans who start in 2021 to graduate debt-free.

According to U.S. News and World Report, 61% of graduating Grinnell students in the most recently surveyed class (2019) had taken out some form of loan from the College or private or federal sources, with an average total debt per student of $20,093. The median federal loan debt for a graduating Grinnell student in that year was $17,000.

“No-loan” need-based financial aid is offered by a small but growing contingency of schools in the U.S., most of which are highly-ranked or otherwise prestigious institutions. In 2001, Princeton University was the first to make the shift; since then, other major colleges and universities have followed, including Columbia, Brown, Harvard, Pomona, Stanford, Swarthmore, Yale, UPenn, Vanderbilt, and Amherst.

The Grinnell Office of Financial Aid will continue to provide additional loan options to families outside of need-based aid, the email said.

Updated November 17, 11:53 a.m.: additional contextual information added on no-loan aid at U.S. institutes of higher education.

Contributed reporting by Seth Taylor. 

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