Haverford College officials are backing away from a pledge to ensure no students are forced to borrow money to attend the private liberal arts college.
College administrators told students this week they are looking to do away with their six-year-old “no loan” pledge to some students – mostly its students from upper middle class households. The new plan still has significant protections for needy families in lower income brackets: Families making less than $60,000 will still not have to take out loans and no family should have to borrow more than $12,000 over four-years, which is far less debt than the average debt-bearing student. (The median family income in the United States is about $51,000.)
The plan still needs the approval by the college's board, which could modify or reject the proposal by college administrators. But Haverford seems ready to join the likes of Dartmouth and Williams Colleges, which all tried no loan programs but then abandoned them following the recession. The market blew a hole in many university endowment funds, which colleges draw on to provide financial aid.
There has been an increase in aid spending at Haverford -- which awards aid based solely on need -- but the no loan program is not entirely to blame, according to a presentation by college officials posted online by a Haverford student newspaper. Haverford spent $16.9 in financial aid in 2009 and over $23 million in 2013 – an increase of about $6.6 million per year. The no loan program cost about $1.9 million this year.
Jess Lord, the dean of admissions and financial aid, said the college has been seeking "equilibrium" between access and affordability and long-term sustainability.
“The truth is that we’ve been having conversations about the long-term sustainability of the financial model since 2008, since the economy took the turn that it took in 2008,” Lord said in a telephone interview Wednesday night.
The proposal to scale back the no loan program to only cover the lowest income families will save the college about $800,000 a year. For the Haverford class of 2012, which entered the college before the no loan program took effect, the average four-year debt burden was about $14,000. Nationally, the average debt burden for the class of 2012 is $29,000.
Colleges with no loan programs calculate a family's assets and use a formula to determine what they can afford to pay. The college picks up the difference between what a family can pay out of its own pocket or with scholarships and the college's price -- a gap that would either force families to borrow or send their students somewhere else. Tuition, fees and room and board at Haverford are priced at $59,000 a year.