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Maria Laskaris '84: Supporting Students During a Financial Crisis

In this first column in a new series, Dartmouth Life takes your questions for College experts. Click here to email questions for the next expert, Dean of the College Tom Crady, by Jan. 6, 2009.  Include your full name, class year (if applicable), and hometown.

Maria Laskaris '84 (Photo by Joseph Mehling '69)
Maria Laskaris '84 is dean of Admissions and Financial Aid. Her commitment to financial aid is personal as well as professional: as an undergraduate, Laskaris received financial aid and held jobs to help fund her education. "I worked for four years in the costume shop at the Hop as my work study position-which I loved!" she says.

With almost half of undergraduates currently receiving scholarships, the College is spending approximately $65 million on financial aid for the 2008-09 academic year. What is the College's obligation?

Dartmouth commits to meet the full demonstrated need of all admitted students for all four years. This policy has been in place since the early 1970s. A commitment to ensuring affordability and accessibility to all students is central to the College's mission.

A diverse student body-including economic diversity-is also one of the most important educational resources of our community and one of Dartmouth's core values.

Is Dartmouth's need-blind admissions policy at risk?

Dartmouth's need-blind admissions policy is not at risk. We are one of a small number of institutions that make admissions decisions without regard to a student's financial circumstances. This commitment ensures that we bring to Dartmouth those students whose accomplishments suggest that they would thrive academically and positively impact our community. Last winter's $10 million financial aid initiative extended this policy to international students.

How does Dartmouth meet the needs of families whose financial situations are changing?

We recognize that families can face changing circumstances. Examples are changes in the size of the parents' household, the number of siblings in college, or the income level. In such cases we adjust the parents' expected contribution accordingly. If a family's circumstances change during the year, we attempt to address that situation as well.

Current requests for mid-year reconsideration are comparable to what we saw last year. We are watching this very closely and will work with families as they contact us.

What is Dartmouth doing to keep loan capital flowing to students?

Dartmouth's three major financial aid initiatives implemented over the last 10 years, including the January 2008 enhancements that included the elimination of loans from the financial aid package, have all sought to reduce the amount of debt incurred by our students and their families.

As a result, Dartmouth families now have less exposure to the private loan market today than in prior years. We counsel students to take full advantage of federal loans, which have more attractive terms and lower interest rates than private loans.

Are loans more difficult to obtain for international and graduate students?

International students are not eligible for federal loans. However, the College has a solid institutional loan program. With the exception of borrowing to replace parents' contributions, this program covers the borrowing needs of international students as completely as federal loans do for the needs of U.S. students. A small number of countries have their own governmental loan programs that students may use to cover parents' contributions.

Graduate students who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents can borrow higher amounts from federal loan programs than can undergraduates. Dartmouth's professional schools also have strong institutional loan programs. Graduate students also can borrow from private loan sources.

Questions or comments about this article? We welcome your feedback.

Last Updated: 11/26/08