The level of confidence students have in their families' ability to finance their Brown education remained stable over the last two semesters, according to the Herald's fall poll.
About 64 percent of respondents to the poll felt "very confident" or "somewhat confident" in their families' ability to meet the costs of tuition. The percentage is down from approximately 69 percent last semester, but up from 60 percent in the fall of 2009.
Students also registered levels of concern that were lower than a year ago. While in the fall of 2009, about 28 percent of students were "somewhat worried," and 10 percent were "very worried," about 33 percent of applicants were either somewhat or very worried this semester.
Director of Financial Aid James Tilton said about 43 percent of undergraduates currently receive need-based scholarships, and about 57 percent obtain assistance from the Office of Financial Aid.
Qualification for financial aid at Brown depends largely on individual family circumstances, Tilton said. "We treat each of the students individually," he said.
Families with less than $60,000 in income and $100,000 in assets "are expected to pay zero towards parent contribution," Tilton said. If family assets have a value greater than $100,000, the University expects contribution only from the assets, he added.
In the 2007-08 academic year, only 12 percent of students were given a full ride, Tilton said. This year, 37 percent received a full scholarship, Tilton said.
The picture changes somewhat for transfers, international students and resumed undergraduate education students. For these applicants, Brown is need-aware, Tilton said, meaning students must indicate on their applications if they intend to apply for financial aid. But if the students are admitted to the University, "we meet 100 percent of their financial needs," he added.
Tilton said that many parents register their apprehension about their ability to pay for tuition with the Office of Financial Aid. "Students are relating what their families are feeling," such as "concern about longevity of jobs and about the economy," he added.
Recently, the Office of Financial Aid's response has focused on counseling students and their families, even those that do not get need-based aid, about "specific options regarding a combination of resources to pay for college," Tilton said. The budget for financial aid increased from $33.9 million 10 years ago to $81.5 million today, he said.
A financial aid initiative, which was put in place at the beginning of the 2008-09 academic year, has deeply impacted many students, Tilton said. The plan boosted the University's financial aid budget and reduced or eliminated student loans for recipients of financial aid. "Brown is committed to paying attention to limit the amount students have to borrow and work while in school," Tilton said.
But this treatment is attached to several conditions, Tilton said. Each student is expected to "bring back money" from some kind of summer employment, he said, as well as work a job during the school year. Students who do not meet either of these conditions might have to borrow the amount of money they otherwise would have earned in these ways, he added.
Before the initiative, many undergraduates had student loans in their financial aid packages, Tilton said. This was a problem, he added, because sometimes the borrowed sum "maxed out" the amount of federal loans available to each student, forcing many to supplement their aid package with more expensive private sector lines of credit.
The federal government imposes limits on the amount of loans it awards students. According to the U.S. Department of Education website, the limits are $5,500 for freshmen, $6,500 for sophomores and $7,500 for juniors and seniors.
One of the effects of the new initiative is that student loans only rarely exceed the federal limit, Tilton said. Currently, 62 percent of students on financial aid do not require loans, up from only 6 percent in the 2007-08 academic year, he added, predicting that number would continue to increase.
Lisa Goddard '14 said the University is "very available" with respect to financial aid. "I have a twin that goes here and we didn't get financial aid, so we were concerned about that," she said. But Brown told her family to call the Office of Financial Aid and talk about their situation, which her parents appreciated very much, she added.
"Brown's financial aid package is really appropriate for the range of money my parents make," said Felipe Umana '11. "The reforms really helped me out. After freshman year I didn't have to take out any loans," he added.
But Umana said that the aid he received during his study abroad semester was not enough to pay for his living expenses, which imposed a financial burden on his family.
Umana said that if he could change anything about the financial aid system, he would increase the amount of aid the students get.
Lorenzo Moretti '14 , an international student from Udine, Italy, said he receives no financial aid from Brown, but does from a scholarship granted by his United World College School. But "Brown doesn't take into consideration the fact that I can't take loans out in Italy," Moretti added.
An objective for the University "should be to become need-blind for international students and to examine the international students' situation in their home country," Moretti said.
The Herald poll was conducted Nov. 1–2 and has a 3.0 percent margin of error with 95 percent confidence. A total of 915 students completed the poll, which The Herald distributed as a written questionnaire in the University Mail Room in J. Walter Wilson and the Stephen Robert ‘62 Campus Center during the day and the Sciences Library at night.