University Pledges Financial Accessibility in Colgate Commitment

University administration recently announced the launch of a new financial aid initiative, dubbed the Colgate Commitment: An Initiative in Access and Affordability, that includes an expansion of Colgate’s no-loan policy. In an email to the community on June 1, President Brian Casey explained the initiative’s objectives, which delineate three levels of financial support based on annual family income. 

Families with an annual income of $80,000 or less will not pay tuition to attend Colgate. Those between $80,000 and $125,000 will now put 5% of their income towards tuition, and families with income levels between $125,000 and $150,000 will put an average of 10% of their income towards tuition. The initiative also expands the no-loan policy, in which financial aid packages for families with an annual income of $150,000 or less will no longer include federal loans.

The initiative comes as the result of a year-long coordinated effort between the Offices of Admission and Financial Aid, as well as Colgate’s Board of Trustees and the extensive alumni network whose donations will continue to fund the Colgate Commitment for future students, according to the announcement. Funding of more than $1 million for the initiative has been provided by members of the Alumni Council and Presidents’ Club Membership Council, through the Colgate Fund. While these plans mark tangible progress in a larger, more complicated process of making Colgate a more inclusive and socio-economically diverse community, Vice President for Admission and Financial Aid Gary Ross explained that to him, the rationale behind the Commitment is simple.

We have heard for years about students who have shied away from applying to Colgate because they were concerned about their family’s ability to pay, even though Colgate, for years, has covered 100% of admitted students’ demonstrated financial need. We needed to make it very clear that if you are a bright student looking for a transformative liberal arts education, you need to apply here,” Ross said. “We are always looking at ways that we can improve and increase access at Colgate, and we will continue that work.” 

Several weeks following the announcement of the commitment launch, the University released plans to expand the new iteration of the no-loan initiative to current students in the classes of 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025. The program, originally set to begin with the Class of 2026, now replaces federal loans with university grants for all current and incoming students with family incomes up to $150,000. Casey accredited the expansion of the commitment and the inclusion of all current Colgate students to the “profound generosity” of the community, in addition to “careful fiscal management.”‘

Many students took to social media to comment on and commend the recent revision of Colgate’s financial aid policy within the context of a larger conversation regarding the school’s commitment to other DEI efforts. 

“I think Colgate’s commitment is a great step in the right direction — one that certainly gives a lot of hope and relief to students like me who sacrifice a lot to be here,” junior Isabelle Thorpe told the Maroon-News. “I’m personally looking forward to seeing how this affects the accessibility of a Colgate education in the future, and I am really excited to see this development in our University.”

In alignment with its Third Century Plan for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), Colgate recently admitted its most diverse group of first-year applicants to date, according to ALANA Cultural Center Director Dr. Esther Rosbrook. Rosbrook stressed the importance of the commitment in pushing the University closer to its goal of diversification as a global provider and center for intellectual creation.

“Now that it is affordable to study at Colgate, I believe this financial aid initiative will allow for diversification and seems poised to make a serious effort as one of Colgate’s education reform strategies,” Rosbrook wrote. “ALANA Cultural Center is ready to support this initiative and work with all students.”

Darline Wattles, ALANA’s assistant director, offered her perspective on the launch of the new financial aid promise, having considered its potential to alleviate many of the financial pressures that students face while attending Colgate.

“Creating this commitment definitely helps prospective students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds who thought of Colgate as an option but couldn’t afford it see it as viable now,” Wattles said. “Not having to worry about the financial piece as much can help students focus more on their academics, rather than where the money is coming from to pay for their education.” 

Despite the influx of generally positive student and alumni responses, sophomore Angela Mangione, who qualifies for the new initiative, expressed her disappointment with the impact of the Commitment on her financial aid package. Mangione said that while her financial aid package doesn’t formally include loans — in line with the Commitment’s no-loan policy — it overestimates her family contribution, putting pressure on her to take out loans to cover the portion of tuition not covered by aid. 

My mom is a teacher and my dad is a nurse, and they are divorced, so they pay for two households. What they are expected to pay through family contribution is not realistic, so we split the costs,” Mangione said. “For me, it means taking out loans and always having that in the back of my mind a little bit. While I try to not let money dictate how I act and what I do, I definitely think about it in regards to my post-college plans.” 

Meanwhile, junior Kelsey Beausoleil said her financial aid experience at Colgate prior to the Commitment had been largely positive in comparison to other schools she considered, though she hopes this shift will improve and expand the pool of applicants who qualify for any type of financial assistance. 

I hope it will open up the opportunity so many of us have already been afforded to those who would not have usually had Colgate on their radar,” Beausoleil said. “Colgate has struggled with maintaining a diverse student body — which they have recognized and taken steps towards mending it — but I believe this has the potential to be the most influential step towards that goal that they have taken.”