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Smith College Will Replace Loans With Grants in Financial Aid Awards

News of Note

College will also provide “launch grants” and “start-up grants” to ease transition for 2022 grads and entering low-income students

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Published October 22, 2021

Smith College today announced that it will eliminate loans from its undergraduate financial aid packages, beginning in fall 2022, replacing them with grants from the college.

This historic expansion of the college’s financial aid program represents a new annual investment of $7 million, projected to bring the college’s total aid awarded next year to more than $90 million. All students receiving need-based institutional aid, which represents more than 60 percent of the student body, will receive an increase in their grant from the college.

Announcing the program, Smith College President Kathleen McCartney noted, “Eliminating loans from financial aid packages will enable Smith to recruit and enroll the best students, regardless of family resources, and enable future alums to begin their careers or continue their studies with their debts greatly reduced or eliminated.”

Reducing college debt, McCartney said, “will be life-changing for students, families and future alums.”

In making this investment, Smith joins a select group of institutions—including Harvard, Princeton and Yale as well as Amherst, Bowdoin and Grinnell—that have eliminated loans as part of their financial aid packages. Smith is the first women’s college in this group.

In addition to providing financial aid, Smith will award one-time “start-up grants” of $1,000 to entering students with an expected family contribution of less than $7,000. The start-up grants are intended to help students from families with fewer economic resources afford the everyday expenses associated with starting college.

And for seniors graduating in 2022 with need-based institutional grants, Smith will offer one-time “launch grants” of $2,000 to help with the cost of transitioning to life after college.

Smith’s new initiatives will be funded through gifts to the college and recent endowment gains.

Alison Overseth, chair of the Smith College Board of Trustees, said, “This is a bold and significant investment for Smith, one that reflects the college’s commitment to its students and their futures. I am grateful to our president and fellow trustees, as well as to the many donors and friends of the college who have helped Smith become a leader in education access.”

Ted Mitchell, president of the American Council on Education, noted, “Eliminating student loans is a huge decision in the life of any college or university. All of us in higher education, as well as the public we serve, are increasingly concerned about the extent of student indebtedness. It’s terrific that Smith has the ability to take this important step toward making a Smith education available to any eligible student, regardless of means.”

In her letter to the Smith community, McCartney noted that these new aid programs advance the college’s goal to make a Smith education accessible to all qualified students regardless of family resources. “Eliminating loans from our aid packages also aligns strongly with our institutional commitment to racial justice and equity, given that Black and Latina/o students—at Smith and across the nation—graduate on average with more student debt than their peers.”

A central focus of McCartney’s presidency has been increasing access for every student who wants to study at Smith. In her letter, McCartney spoke of her own experience as a first-generation college student who benefited from generous financial aid. “Financial aid changes lives,” she wrote. “Higher education should be a right, not a privilege.”

Additional information about the financial aid initiatives Smith announced today is available in an online FAQ.