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BFA: Boldly moving financial aid forward

In her final State of Brown address, President Ruth Simmons asserted that "financial aid should be a top priority for the University." We, the members of Brown for Financial Aid, could not agree more. In February, BFA formed with the purpose of committing Brown to this top priority and ensuring that Brown is affordable for all. Furthermore, as we identified our goals, we determined that improving financial aid should not solely be a student endeavor, but should also feature the entire community of alums, administrators, faculty, staff, Corporation members and friends of Brown. To increase interest in improving financial aid, we have crafted a campaign that features a video of student voices on financial aid, a petition and a report on the state of financial aid at Brown, all of which are available on our website. Financial aid is built into the DNA of Brown's mission to serve "the community, the nation and the world." Whether you're on financial aid or not, this issue affects the entire Brown community. In this editorial, we share our concerns as well as proposed solutions.

First, BFA encourages Brown to affirm its responsibility to open its doors to all talented students with an aim to include diverse socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds. Currently, Brown is not need-blind for one-sixth of our undergraduate student body, meaning a significant portion of potential students can be turned away due to financial need. Often students who want to come to Brown are turned away into the arms of competitors due to our inability to provide adequate financial assistance. Continuing to be need-aware puts Brown at a disadvantage compared to peer institutions. Our policy narrows Brown's applicant pool as well as the diversity of the student body in the coming years. To address this issue, we advocate for the University to start a new capital campaign to raise the necessary funds to go need-blind for transfer, international and Resumed Undergraduate Education students, allowing Brown to be universally accessible in admissions.

Second, BFA seeks to make Brown more affordable. The cost of a Brown education continues to climb with next year's tuition and fees totaling $55,016, a 3.5 percent increase from the previous year, paired with a modest 2.1 percent increase in the undergraduate financial aid budget. Unsurprisingly, Brown's current financial aid program has left students with loans with graduation debt that ranks the second-highest in the Ivy League and is seven times that of Princeton graduates. This debt hinders the ability of Brown graduates to enter the professional world and limits career options due to constraining financial obligations and the pressing need to pay back loans. We urge the University to incrementally add more scholarship money and lower the average debt burden from more than $20,000 to $15,000 within 10 years.

Third, we call on the University to make financial aid more responsive to student needs. Right now, domestic students can reapply annually and have their awards adjusted based on changes in need. But international, transfer and RUE students who enter Brown without a financial award may never apply to receive financial aid, regardless of changes to their financial situation. And even for students who receive financial aid, their student loan totals will not change over the course of their time at Brown. It is also difficult to change aid packages through appeal. In fact, several students over the past few years have been forced to leave Brown, either temporarily or permanently.

That's why BFA stresses the importance of making opportunities for financial aid and aid readjustments more accessible and responsive to all students with need. All students should be allowed to apply for financial aid and allowed to reapply in subsequent years. An endowed fund must also be created to address changes in financial situations with low-interest loans and additional grants.

Last, we support increasing student voices in financial aid and policy decisions, starting with increasing the number of undergraduate students on the University Resources Committee. This would better represent the largest constituency on campus in budgetary matters, especially in future allocations of financial aid. We are encouraged by the willingness of administrators at the March 20 Brown University Community Council meeting to assist in the production of concrete funding objectives. Building on these commitments is essential to the development of financial aid transparency and the assurance that Brown is accessible for all.

We have already made large advances in financial aid with the Boldly Brown campaign. Progress will take years, but the Brown student body can make a difference. Together, we can advance this endeavor further and champion financial aid as a top priority, ensuring that the opportunity Brown provides us to "discharge the offices of life with usefulness and reputation" will be available to all students, present and future, domestic and international.

BFA can be reached at Go to to watch their video, read their report and sign the petition to President-elect Paxson, Provost Mark Schlissel P'15 and the Corporation urging them to prioritize financial aid.



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