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Colby College President William D. Adams announced January 19 that, beginning in 2008-09, Colby will eliminate loans from students’ financial aid packages, replacing those loans with grants, which do not have to be repaid. The new policy, in conjunction with the same commitment to students from Maine announced last fall, represents a commitment of about $1.5 million per year, and it signals a move among top-tier liberal arts colleges to address issues of access and affordability through new aid policies.

The decision, approved at a regular meeting of the board of trustees, will make it possible for students who earn admission and qualify for financial aid from the college to graduate with no debt from student loans. The decision applies to currently enrolled and new students, and it takes effect beginning the fall semester of 2008.

Colby is taking a leadership role in the shift among liberal arts colleges, joining fewer than a dozen private institutions in the United States committing institutional funds to eliminate institutional loans in an effort to make their programs affordable to the broadest range of qualified students regardless of ability to pay.

“It is principally about access and affordability,” Adams said of the initiative. “As comprehensive fees rise, we can do and we should do more. We don’t want any student not to come to Colby because of concerns about paying off student loans.”

Colby’s financial aid policy is need-based, relying on specific calculations to determine a student’s financial need, then fully meeting that demonstrated need with a financial aid package. Colby’s comprehensive fee this year is $46,100. Currently the total average financial aid package is $30,585 per student for those qualifying for financial aid. Typically that package includes loans of from $3,450 to $3,750, meaning students are graduating with up to $14,400 in loans to repay. This grant program will eliminate that indebtedness.

Following an October meeting, Colby trustees announced a program to eliminate loans for students from Maine. At that time they asked the administration to look at new initiatives in light of a stronger financial position resulting from endowment growth and early success in a capital campaign.

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