Denison a Leader in Making Education Affordable
Date of Event: April 2, 2008
Posted: April 1, 2008 / Last Updated: April 2, 2008
For the last 14 years, Denison University has been doing what Harvard and Yale are saying they will do for the first time this fall — aggressively holding down costs for as many incoming students as possible.
"We have long believed that part of our job is to do what we can to make Denison affordable for the students we admit," says Perry Robinson, vice president and director of admissions. "We're pleased that some of the larger universities have decided to come on board — but we've been doing this for a long time, and we're stepping up our efforts."
Investing in Students
Denison is one of the few undergraduate liberal arts colleges to have substantial endowment resources, enabling the college to practice "need-blind" admissions. This means that Denison admits the best-qualified students without knowledge of or regard for their family finances.
The costs of operating a top-tier educational program with a 10 to 1 student-faculty ratio and a residential campus are substantial. But Denison's endowment, valued at nearly $700 million, provides resources that, when coupled with Annual Fund gifts from alumni and friends, cover 33 percent of the college's annual operating expenses.
"Denison's endowment resources are the consequence of generous alumni support compounded by a long-term record of good stewardship," says President Dale Knobel. "Rather than hoarding the endowment's income, Denison invests in its student body, substantially reducing costs for the larger number of students. As a result, students and their families carry less financial burden."
On average, across the student body of about 2,100, Denison invests $16,100 per student per year. Some receive more, based on their combination of circumstances, and some less, but this year alone, Denison has provided from its own resources a total of $34.2 million in grants and scholarships to its students. Another $2.7 million of university funding is dedicated to providing self-help employment opportunities for any student, above and beyond college work-study funds.
Need-Sensitive Financial Aid
Denison uses only the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) calculated from the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to establish eligibility for need-based aid. Denison does not use additional assessments for the purpose of reducing a student's aid, nor does it consider assets such as home equity. The college also encourages parents to submit letters of circumstances that affect their financial status to determine if eligibility can be increased. For the class currently being recruited, in no case will Denison meet less than 93 percent of need as determined solely from FAFSA information.
Denison currently guarantees meeting 100 percent of need for those who are Pell Grant eligible and/or their parent's earned income is less than $40,000 or they are the first generation of their family to attend college. Ten percent of Denison's students are from families meeting this criteria. Nearly a quarter of Denison students are from families with income of $60,000 or less.
Need is Not the only Consideration
Denison also is serious about rewarding students with records of academic excellence.
"The practice of awarding merit scholarships makes it possible, in many cases, for exceptional students from middle income families to pursue their preference for a selective liberal arts college over a lower-tuition large state university, which may not be their first choice," says Nancy Hoover, director of financial aid.
A full 94 percent of current first-year students receive $7,000 or more in need-based financial aid or merit-based academic scholarships funded by Denison. Many students receive both forms of support. In all:
The Bottom Line
By meeting the first dollar of need with grants rather than debt, and by rewarding academic excellence, the college ensures that only 49 percent of Denison students graduate with any debt at all and of those students, the average amount borrowed by graduation is $14,657.
These numbers place Denison among other highly selective schools committed to accessibility and affordability, such as Middlebury College (Vt.), Swarthmore College (Pa.), Bates College (Maine), Macalester College (Minn.), Haverford College (Pa.), Colgate University (N.Y.), Bowdoin College (Maine) and Colorado College. In fact, on Kiplinger's "100 Best Values in Private Colleges" list, Denison was the only Ohio school listed among the 20 institutions nationally with the lowest average debt following graduation.
Denison University, founded in 1831, is an independent, residential liberal arts institution located in Granville, Ohio. A highly selective college enrolling 2,100 full-time undergraduate students from all 50 states and dozens of foreign countries, Denison is a place where innovative faculty and motivated students collaborate in rigorous scholarship, civic engagement and the cultivation of independent thinking.
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