Brown University will make significant investments to expand financial aid and improve college access, bolstered by the extraordinary performance of the University’s endowment and the success of its BrownTogether comprehensive fundraising campaign.
In a Monday, Oct. 25, letter to the Brown community following weekend meetings of the Corporation of Brown University, President Christina H. Paxson announced initiatives in three areas. Brown will (1) significantly increase scholarships for moderate-income students, and also reduce the summer earnings expectation for high-need students; (2) move toward need-blind admissions for international students; and (3) develop a program that prepares talented students from public schools in Providence for college.
With the new investments in financial aid, Brown will fully cover tuition for families earning $125,000 or less with typical assets. In addition, students of families making less than $60,000 a year with typical assets will receive scholarships that cover all expenses— tuition, room, board and books — and additional scholarship to help support other expenses. Making major investments in financial aid to lower the cost of a Brown education for moderate-income families will further reduce obstacles for exceptionally talented students to apply to the University.
“Brown has a longstanding commitment to matriculate talented students from all income backgrounds,” Paxson said. “The University is also committed to promoting educational achievement among children from our surrounding communities. The remarkable growth in Brown’s endowment and the success of the BrownTogether campaign provide an opportunity to build on these two commitments, ensuring that the University continues to attract the best and brightest students from all over the world, and expanding college-going in Rhode Island.”
Brown will work with community partners to develop an intensive college-preparation program for cohorts of students who attend public schools in Providence, whose levels of college attainment are below state goals, Paxson said.
And becoming fully need-blind for international students in the coming years will significantly expand the University’s ability to attract and educate the most promising international students from all socioeconomic groups. While Brown has been need-blind for domestic students for almost 20 years, the University currently has a “need-aware” policy that considers a student’s financial need in admissions decisions for international undergraduates.
“Need-blind admissions for international students will have wide-ranging positive impacts for the University and the world,” said Provost Richard M. Locke, who has led multiple committees in assessing affordability and access in Brown admissions. “It will create new opportunities for students to learn from international peers who have distinct experiences and perspectives, while also providing a Brown education for talented young people who will go on to serve their communities locally, nationally and globally.”
When fully implemented, the further investments will add almost $25 million annually to the current undergraduate financial aid budget, which stood at $153.7 million in the 2020-21 academic year. Between 2013-14 and 2020-21, Brown’s overall spending for undergraduate financial aid rose from $95.2 million to $153.7 million, an average annual increase of 8.8%.
The new initiatives build on two decades of significant efforts to make a Brown education more accessible. In 2003, Brown became a need-blind institution for new domestic undergraduate students, which eliminated any consideration of an applicant’s ability to pay tuition from the admission process for these students. In the 2018-19 academic year, the University replaced loans with grants in financial aid packages for all students, including transfer and international students, through the Brown Promise initiative. Last year, Brown became need-blind for students who have served in the military, increased their scholarships, and with the support of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs began covering all tuition and fees for veterans, who previously were admitted on a need-aware basis as transfer students.
Other investments in supporting living and learning at Brown include providing health insurance scholarships as part of all financial aid packages for uninsured students; direct scholarship support that pays for all required books and course materials at the Brown Bookstore; and a travel pilot program through which the University directly purchases the airfare for aided international students.
“With these new investments in attracting top talent and supporting them through their years at Brown, we have an opportunity to further demonstrate Brown’s commitment to building a community that serves the best students from around the world,” Paxson said.
Highlights of the three new aid and access initiatives
1. Increasing financial aid scholarships for moderate-income students and decreasing summer earnings expectations:
Starting with all students enrolled for the next academic year (2022-23), Brown will change the calculation of how much a family has to contribute to pay for their child’s education. The University will eliminate the consideration of a family’s home equity as an asset when calculating a student’s available financial resources, typically translating to thousands of additional dollars in a student’s scholarship aid. The resulting increased scholarships will cover full tuition for families earning $125,000 or less a year with typical assets.
According to Dean of Admission Logan Powell, the elimination of home equity will increase the diversity of the applicant pool. Like all Ivy League institutions, Brown offers need-based financial aid — no merit scholarships — and the University currently includes a portion of home equity as an asset when making financial aid calculations.
“Removing home equity and lowering the expected family contribution is a critical step toward our goal of making Brown affordable for families from all socioeconomic backgrounds,” Powell said. “With this initiative, we will be better positioned to recruit and enroll more students from moderate-income backgrounds.”
Also, starting in Summer 2022, Brown will reduce the summer earnings expectations for its highest-need students — those who have no expected parent contribution — by $1,000, to $1,700 for first-year students and $1,900 for other students. With this change, Brown scholarships will cover all expenses — tuition, room, board and books — for students of families who make less than $60,000 a year with typical assets, in addition to supporting personal expenses.
2. Moving toward need-blind admission for international students:
Brown will aggressively grow its financial aid budget for international undergraduate students, with the goal of becoming fully need-blind for international students for the graduating Class of 2029 (who will begin at Brown in Fall 2025). Brown will join the ranks of five other colleges and universities nationally who are need-blind for international students.
Roughly half of the cost will be financed through the greater expected payout from strong performance of the University’s endowment, and half will come from a concerted fundraising effort. Brown plans to raise about $120 million in new endowment to enable the phase-in of need-blind international admissions over a four-year period.
According to Sergio Gonzalez, Brown’s senior vice president for advancement, momentum in Brown fundraising is strong: “The Brown Promise that removed loans from financial aid packages and the need-blind veterans initiative were made possible by generous gifts from donors and are close to being fully funded,” he said.
3. Launching an intensive college-preparation program for Providence public schools:
The State of Rhode Island has set an ambitious goal to ensure that 70% of Rhode Islanders hold a college degree or certificate by 2025. According to data from Rhode Island Kids Count, Providence is home to approximately 18% of the state’s children, yet only 74% graduate from high school and, of these, only 54% enroll in college the year after graduating from high school.
“This academic year, we will plan a new initiative that will focus on preparing cohorts of students from Providence to enter selective four-year degree programs after high school graduation,” Paxson said. “This initiative will complement the Rhode Island Promise scholarship, which provides every Rhode Island student coming right out of high school with two years of college tuition-free at the Community College of Rhode Island.”
Brown will work with community partners to develop, fund and lead the college-preparation program for cohorts of students attending public schools in Providence, and the program could later be extended to other parts of Rhode island’s urban core, Paxson said. The initiative will become part of an “ecosystem of efforts” with other community programs, recognizing that early interventions prior to high school are essential for creating a successful college pipeline.
There is much work already happening at Brown to address local educational disparities, including the Swearer Center’s deep partnership with ONE Neighborhood Builders to provide high-quality after-school programs at D’Abate Elementary School; the Fund for the Education of the Children of Providence, which supports teaching and learning at Providence public schools; and the MAT program, which provides loan forgiveness through its Urban Education Fellowship for fellows who teach for three years in Rhode Island’s urban core. In addition, the Brown University School of Public Health, Warren Alpert Medical School and Hassenfeld Child Health Innovation Institute support projects that aim to reduce child health disparities, recognizing that children need to be healthy in order to learn.
Financial performance enables ongoing commitment to access
In addition to new fundraising to raise endowed funds for the phase-in of need-blind international admissions, the three new initiatives will be supported by increases in the Brown endowment’s annual contributions to the operating budget.
The endowment generated a 51.5% return during Fiscal Year 2021, closing the year with an endowment market value of $6.9 billion. Because the endowment’s contribution to the operating budget is based on the endowment’s average market value over the previous three years, the current $194 million that the endowment’s investment returns contributed to the operating budget in Fiscal Year 2021 is expected to steadily increase in each of the coming years.
The annual payout rate ranges from 4.5% to 5.5% of the average market value, increasing the resources for the three new financial aid and access initiatives over time.
“The University has an enduring commitment to ensuring that talented young people can afford to come to Brown, regardless of their socioeconomic background,” Paxson said. “We are fortunate that strong financials provide us with a rare opportunity to make new investments in cultivating the next generation of leaders.”