Eliminating Student Loans for Low-Income Families: Amherst Joins Other Colleges and Universities in Striving for Economic Diversity

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THIS SUMMER AMHERST COLLEGE (MASS.) BECAME the latest higher ed institution to eliminate student loans to low-income students. The new program substitutes scholarships for loans, ensuring that these students from families with annual incomes of $40,000 or less will graduate debt free. In making this commitment, Amherst joins Princeton and Davidson College (N.C.), two private IHEs that already have "no loan" policies. The latter's new policy took effect just this August and is being helped with a $15 million financial commitment from The Duke Endowment. (Davidson is one of four nonprofit institutions that have historically been assisted by the philanthropy.)

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Other public institutions have already made pledges to assist lower-income students. The University of North Carolina has the Carolina Covenant, which was expanded in 2004 to include families from 150 percent of the federal poverty level to 200 percent. Specifically, this promises a debt-free education to students from a family of four with an annual income of about $37,000, or a single parent with a child who makes about $24,000. The University of Virginia's program, "Access UVa," instituted in 2004, is supported by a $16 million annual commitment that replaces need-based financial aid with grants for low-income students, whom UVa defines as those whose family income is equivalent to 150 percent of the federal poverty line or less. …