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When Colby College announced last fall that it would eliminate student loans from financial aid packages of Maine students and replace them with grants, applications from Maine residents poured in. For some, a Colby education suddenly seemed within reach. As a college committed to educating the best qualified students regardless of their ability to pay, Colby announced January 19 that it would extend the grants-to-loans initiative to all students with financial need.

The price of higher education continues to rise, even as the country worries about an economic downturn. According to Colby President William D. Adams, Colby — as an institution with a comprehensive fee of $46,100 that has seen significant endowment growth in recent years — has a responsibility to make itself accessible. “This is about the broader push in higher education on the issues of increasing access and raising the level of commitment that institutions have regarding affordability. It’s particularly important in an environment where there has been dramatic endowment growth,” he said.

Colby’s endowment, though still small compared to other institutions that have adopted similar policies, has grown from $203 million in 1997 to $599 million in 2007. Financial aid is a significant part of the College’s strategic plan and $50 million of the $370-million Reaching the World campaign goal is being sought to boost financial aid resources.

The new initiative, which goes into effect in the fall of 2008, will cost Colby $1.5 million annually, including the new grants to Maine students. It will not affect the way Colby calculates need or the way students are chosen for admission. “We’re not going to take fewer high-need students because we’re increasing grant aid,” said Adams.

Click here for the original press release.

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