Dartmouth Expands Its Commitment to Middle-Income Families

Student loans eliminated for undergraduates from families earning $125,000 or less.

Baker Tower at sunrise

Dartmouth has expanded its commitment to help students from middle-income families, ensuring full-tuition scholarships without loans for more undergraduates than ever and enhancing its ability to attract talented students from all income levels, President Philip J. Hanlon ’77 announced today.

Speaking at an event marking the first anniversary of the rededication of The Call to Lead campaign to focus on student access as well as the establishment of the Presidential Commission on Financial Aid, President Hanlon thanked members of the Dartmouth community for committing $90 million in scholarship gifts since the spring of 2020, a record amount for a 12-month period. 

Among the changes to Dartmouth’s financial aid program made possible by the historic philanthropic investment of alumni, parents, and friends, Dartmouth will be able to expand the eligibility for full-tuition scholarships. Beginning with the undergraduate Class of 2026, students from families with annual household income of $125,000 or less and typical assets will qualify for full-tuition scholarships, as Dartmouth will replace loans with enhanced scholarship grants that do not have to be repaid.

Hanlon also announced that in a year when economic hardship resulting from the global pandemic affected hundreds of Dartmouth families, members of the alumni and parent community generously funded a special $8 million emergency scholarship fund. The Bridge to Recovery Scholarship Fund will meet the increased financial aid of impacted current students over two academic years.

“Once again, the Dartmouth community rose to the occasion,” said Hanlon. “As promised, we met 100% of each scholarship recipient’s demonstrated need.”

A Major Step in Reducing Student Indebtedness

When it publicly launched the $3 billion Call to Lead campaign three years ago, Dartmouth pledged to expand its financial aid endowment by $500 million—as of today, $277 million in gifts and pledges toward that goal have been received—with the objective of providing a permanent, sustainable source of scholarships for a greater number of undergraduates. This plan to grow Dartmouth’s financial aid program encompasses several individual initiatives:

Scholarship InitiativeGoalCommitment to Date
Strengthen commitment to U.S. need-blind admissions$250 million$126 million
Expand need-blind admissions to international students$90 million$42 million
Eliminate loans/reduce student indebtedness$80 million$37 million
Expand fellowships for graduate students$60 million$59 million
Provide support for off-campus programs/study abroad$15 million$11 million
Offer support for high-need students$5 million$2 million

When Dartmouth realizes its ambitious financial aid aspirations, it will have eliminated loans from all of its financial aid awards and will be one of only six colleges or universities in the United States to offer need-blind admissions for all undergraduates.

Today’s announcement builds on a commitment dating to 2008, when Dartmouth removed the requirement for loans for undergraduates from families with annual household income of $75,000 or less. In 2012, Dartmouth raised the income threshold to $100,000.

“We are expanding our commitment to ensure that the dream of a Dartmouth education is within the reach of the American middle class by guaranteeing full tuition scholarships for all students from families earning $125,000 or less annually,” said Hanlon. “This will elevate our ability to enroll the most talented, promising students, regardless of family income, who want to immerse themselves in the Dartmouth experience.”

Attaining the $80 million campaign goal to eliminate loans from all Dartmouth financial aid awards will benefit nearly one-quarter of all undergraduates, a majority of them from middle-income families. Gifts to date total $37 million, enabling today’s announcement. The next milestone will erase loans for students with family income of up to $150,000, when an additional $13 million in commitments is secured, for a total of $50 million.

“Through our analyses and interviews this year, we’ve come to realize that middle-income families are uniquely stressed,” said Julie McKenna ’89, a co-chair of the Presidential Commission on Financial Aid. “This decision removes a barrier to educational opportunity for them and is a major step toward reducing post-college indebtedness for our students. We hope many more members of the Dartmouth community will get behind this effort.”

Another commission member, William Vrattos ’91, said the scholarship support he received as an undergraduate provided financial relief for his family and flexibility for him as he launched his career. Middle-income families today, he said, are feeling much more squeezed.

“When I was going to college, a middle-income family could scrimp and save and get their kids most of the way through college on their own, maybe with a little help,” Vrattos said. “Now a four-year college education, particularly at an elite institution such as Dartmouth, is no longer something that you can dependably save for. Anything we can do to make schools such as Dartmouth available to all families is important to society.”

Commission’s First Anniversary Highlights Progress

Today’s Scholar Celebration honored alumni and friends who have invested in scholarships and thanked campaign volunteers as it marked the one-year anniversary of the creation of Dartmouth’s Presidential Commission on Financial Aid. A year ago, commission members were charged with spearheading immediate efforts to secure financial aid funding to help students whose families had been impacted by the pandemic and to advise on a sustainable plan of action to resource access, affordability, and inclusiveness in support of Dartmouth’s educational mission.

Underlying the commission’s activities is an institutional commitment to the principle that talented students come from families across all income levels and that all Dartmouth students benefit from learning in a socioeconomically diverse undergraduate community.

Dartmouth’s dedication to offer even more robust financial aid awards has helped attract highly talented, increasingly diverse incoming classes in recent decades. More than ever, Dartmouth students bring a mix of life experiences and perspectives to the College. Dartmouth’s campaign goal to expand the availability of scholarships—50% of all undergraduates receive financial aid in the current year—will make the institution more competitive against peers that have already reduced students’ reliance on loans.

“We have more work to do, and the results of our efforts will be life-changing,” said Hanlon. “Financial aid is simply the most transformative investment we can make for our students and our entire community. It strengthens the living and learning experience for everyone on our campus.”

Speaking at the Scholar Celebration, Bob Dahl, the parent of a member of the Class of 2018 and a commission co-chair, announced that Dartmouth is planning to inaugurate a new giving society to recognize those who have invested $1 million or more in endowed scholarship funds.

“On behalf of the Presidential Commission on Financial Aid and the entire community, I want to thank all of those who have supported Dartmouth’s financial aid program, and we want to further honor individuals and families who have made a significant investment in expanding access to our transformative liberal arts education,” he said. “Through your investment in scholarships, you are opening doors of opportunity for future generations of student recipients.”

Lee Coffin, vice provost for enrollment and dean of admissions and financial aid, said Dartmouth’s expanded financial aid endowment will enable students to have an educational experience that prepares them to be tomorrow’s leaders.

“Our admitted classes reflect the 21st century,” said Coffin. “As we look forward, our communities will grow more diverse socioeconomically, not less; and their varied experiences, aspirations, and ideals will enrich all aspects of campus life. Today's announcement is another strong step forward, enhancing our ability to realize that commitment for every entering class.”