Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

Davidson College Beefs Up Endowment Trust to Eliminate Loans and Attract Minorities

Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

Davidson College Beefs Up Endowment Trust to Eliminate Loans and Attract Minorities

Article excerpt

Administrators at Davidson College, a respected private liberal arts college with 1,900 full-time students, located in Davidson, \,C, saw the effect that taking out expensive loans was having on ils students. Us annual fees of $40,000 iu tuition plus $12,000 in room and board or S52.000 annually were causing middle-class students to take out costly loans and making it difficult to attract low-income and minority students to maintain, its diversity.

To make Davidson more affordable and appeal to a wider range of students, its trustees devised a solution: expand the number of needbased grants to students by raising more money for its endowment and reducing and, in most cases, eliminating loans, Need-based grants would rise, making Davidson competitive against die cost of in-state and public colleges.

To accomplish that, its trustees raised $70 million toward the Davidson Trust, which is funding $20 million a year in grants to students.

Nearly 45 Percent of Davidson's Students Receiving Grants

Of its incoming freshman class of 2012, nearly 45 percent of students qualified for needbased grants, and the average grant amounted to $32,550. The financial aid package covers the total cost of éducation, including room and board, books and additional fees.

Sparked by the grants, the number of minority students accepted at Davidson has been rising. Of its incoming freslunan class, 7.4 percent are Latinos - up from 5.9 percent of the 2011 class, 8 percent are African-Americans - up from 5.7 percent, 6 percent are international - up from 5 percent, and 8.6 percent are Asian-American - up from 5.2 percent in 201 1 .

Gaining acceptance to Davidson is demanding. It accepts students who take challenging courses in high school across all disciplines, explains Irma Xavarro, assistant dean of admissions and linancial aid and a Davidson alumni and former recipient of Davidson Trust grants. Students must demonstrate a strong GPA, involvement in their community, strong writing in their essay, four letters of recommendation, and competitive SAI' or ACT scores.

When Christopher Gruber, dean of admissions, tracked why students weren't choosing Davidson, in 2005, "sticker shock" was one of the major factors, explains Eileen Keeley, vice president for college relations at Davidson. "We realized we were losing talented kids that we wanted to come to Davidson, before they applied," she says. Demographics were changing, and the number of academically gifted students who couldn't afford Davidson was rising, not falling. "How can we make a commitment to diversifying the student body, geographically, ethnically, racially and socioeconomicallyi" the administration asked, she says.

Maintaining a diverse study body was critical to Davidson's commitment to educate its students and prepare them for the world, explains Navarro. "If you want to survive in the work force, you need to learn how to interact with other people who are different from you," she says.

The Davidson Trust has exerted a major impact on all students with financial need, and latino students in particular, Navarro says. "For Latino famines, even a couple of thousand dollars can be the difference between affording a school and not affording a school," she says. In fact, a record number of students of color and first-generation students have applied to Davidson College in the last few years because of the need- based grants. "People now feel that Davidson is affordable."

hi 2006', Davidson was awarded an $875,000 grant from the Duke Endowment, wliich allowed the college to cap its student loans. But even limiting a student's debt to S12,000 for a four-year college degree didn't encourage enough academically gifted students to choose Davidson. "Many families, particularly of first-generation students, are risk adverse. They don't know where their next job will be and how diey will pay for college," Keeley said.

When its trustees made the commitment to expand its endowment, they? …

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