There are very few colleges and universities in the nation that sustain need-blind admissions policies and fewer still that commit to funding fully a student's education once admitted. Dartmouth is among this select group. "Our commitment to need-blind admissions and full financial aid ensures we attract and retain the most talented students from across the country and around the world," says Karl Furstenberg, dean of admissions.
Taking ability to pay out of the college-choice equation has profound implications-for students and their families, for the quality of the academic experience, and for the opportunity to create and nurture a community that thrives on diversity of all kinds. "We stand by the principle that no academically qualified student should be denied a Dartmouth education for want of family resources," says President James Wright.
Brian Fortin '08, a member of the Passamaquoddy tribe from Presque Isle, Maine, knew that he wanted to be at Dartmouth. "Maine subsidizes education for recognized tribes," he says, "but I fell in love with Dartmouth." After he was admitted, the financial aid office worked with his parents to see they got the help they needed. "I'm where I want to be, and that's a wonderful gift," he adds.
Dartmouth's financial aid program is based on three principles: need-blind admissions, need-based aid, and full-need assistance. "Students are at the core of what we do," says Wright, who has made the continued strength of the program a priority in the College's strategic plan. "Since its earliest years, the College has provided support for students who could benefit from a Dartmouth education but could not afford one."
It is an extraordinary institutional promise that comes at a significant cost. In 2002-03, Dartmouth awarded students some $33 million in scholarships from its own resources. In 2003-04, that number rose to $36.1 million. By contrast, in 2002-03 and 2003-04, Dartmouth students received only $2.6 million each year in scholarship aid from federal and state sources.
On average, scholarships comprise 55 percent of each student's financial aid package. Since the cost of providing a Dartmouth education far exceeds the price of tuition and room and board, every student at the College in effect receives financial support.
"We recently strengthened the program by adding $4.2 million to the scholarship budget, in part to lessen the debt load for our students," says Director of Financial Aid Virginia Hazen. "Graduating with debt really limits options for students, particularly those from families of modest means. This helps them avoid that."
Dartmouth could not sustain its financial aid program without the generosity of alumni and other friends of the College. "Dartmouth graduates benefit in many ways from their educations," says E. John Rosenwald Jr. '52, Tu'53. "Once you realize how profound those benefits are, you understand you have a commitment to give back, to make that experience available to others." Vice chair of the Campaign for the Dartmouth Experience and chair from 1991 to 1993 of the College's last campaign, the Will to Excel, Rosenwald was a trustee from 1986 to 1996. For three of those years (1993-96), he served as chair of the board. Among their many gifts to the College, he and his wife Pat have endowed two scholarship funds, one for undergraduates and one for Tuck School students.
Sonia Faruqi '07 is the first undergraduate recipient of the Rosenwalds' endowed scholarship. At Dartmouth with her identical twin sister, she is a double major in economics and government who plans to use her education as the foundation on which to build an international career.
"Dartmouth financial aid has made a huge difference to my life," Faruqi says. "The program has benefited many students and it has benefited me as well."
Endowment designated for scholarships supports a significant percentage of aid, but because students are admitted solely based on their abilities, it is a challenge to predict how much aid they and their families will need. Increasing that endowed percentage is a priority since it will safeguard the program while relieving pressure on the College's operating budget. "We face real competition from other highly selective colleges and universities for the best students," says Rosenwald. "Our financial aid program is an investment, one that keeps Dartmouth strong."
Rosenwald has also given generously to the Dartmouth College Fund (DCF) Scholar Program, another important source of financial aid. In the past year, alumni and others have given $9.5 million to scholarships through the DCF. The program is a unique opportunity for donors to become directly involved with the students funded by their support, and it allows individuals and families to designate a gift to a specific student in his or her junior or senior year.
Seattle resident Adil Ahmad '05 will receive financial aid support from the Rosenwalds through the DCF Scholar Program this year. "I couldn't have afforded to come to a college like Dartmouth without financial aid," says Ahmad, a math and government major who just added a minor in Arabic this term. "Students should be able to concentrate on their studies without having to worry about working enough hours to finance their education. Work-study is an important component of the financial aid package, but balance is just as important."
Ahmad cofounded the Dartmouth Civil Liberties Union (DCLU), co-chaired the Daniel Webster Legal Society, and has completed four independent study projects in the past three years.
Each October, a new crop of DCF scholars gets to meet the donors who have stepped up to the plate in support of their Dartmouth careers. These meetings often blossom into long-term friendships.
Dartmouth parents Bill and Peggy Montgoris will be on campus this fall to meet their new DCF scholar, Krista Dornfried '05. They've sponsored a student through this program for the last two years. "There's no reason to think we won't do it again," Peggy Montgoris says.
The Montgorises were first-generation college students who find it particularly meaningful to share their experiences as well as their generosity. "It's important for people all across the board to have the opportunity to attend the best colleges in the country," says Bill Montgoris. "Those who have been successful should make sure that happens." Their daughter Christy graduated from Dartmouth in 1996.
Dornfried, a member of the women's ice hockey team who hopes to join Teach for America when she graduates, says Dartmouth was her first choice. "But I couldn't be here without financial aid, and it's people like the Montgorises who really make a difference. They made my dreams come true."
By Laurel Stavis
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Last Updated: 5/30/08