More students from a variety of economic backgrounds are able to afford Princeton's educational opportunities due to enhancements in the University's financial aid program, including the elimination of loans for undergraduates.

photo: John Jameson




In focus: Princeton's financial aid program

With high school seniors now embarking on the college application process, many families are dealing with price shock amid rising costs for higher education.

While the cost of attending Princeton has risen for students who pay full tuition -- although not as much as that of many other institutions -- the University has taken major steps to make a Princeton education more affordable for all students. The cornerstone of these enhancements was the replacement of loans for undergraduates with grants that do not need to be repaid. The change, instituted in 2001, set a standard that has caused other universities to re-examine and improve their own aid programs.

In addition to increasing its financial aid budget, Princeton also provides online tools to assist families with their aid applications. To address common concerns of prospective students and their families, Princeton's director of undergraduate financial aid, Don Betterton, spoke with Office of Communications contributing writer Shani Hilton about key features of the University's financial aid program.

How has the "no-loan" policy affected admissions at Princeton?

Since the policy went into effect, we have had a major increase in the number of aid students. In the 2004-05 academic year, we anticipate that 51 percent of Princeton undergraduates will be on aid. Overall we've seen our aid population grow from about 1,800 students to nearly 2,400, an increase of one-third.

As an institution, we are firmly committed to the idea of economic diversity. We believe our undergraduate educational experience is better for everyone by having students from a variety of economic backgrounds.

What is the Princeton "Early Estimator," and how is it different from services offered by other universities?

The Early Estimator is an online form that gives applicants or potential applicants a preliminary idea of how much their families will have to contribute, and also shows them what their actual aid package will look like. Among our peer institutions within the Ivy League, I don't believe anyone else has such a tool.

Our Early Estimator doesn't take very long to complete, as there are only about 20 questions. Families have found it to be extremely worthwhile in going from the general to the specific. While explanations of overall aid policies are helpful, what really matters to a family is how much and what type of aid the student will receive.

How do students apply for financial aid?

We have a Web-based application that is very convenient to fill out. We receive the family's information almost immediately. An aid applicant can enter the information at night, and we are prepared to calculate a financial aid award the next day. Besides, it's a "one size fits all" application, which also makes it convenient for families other than U.S. citizens with two parents. For example, international students don't have to go find supplemental forms -- they are included within our main application.

Princeton does not use the PROFILE aid application, a fee-based form that is required by other private colleges. Our own application form is free, which is something we like to see for financial aid students.

While the Web application is the preferred method for applying for aid at Princeton, families can request paper applications by calling our office at (609) 258-3330.

If students receive outside scholarships, will their aid be reduced?

We are committed to meeting 100 percent of our students' need. Therefore, we have to include outside scholarships in the aid package, not in addition to it. Considering that limitation, the most beneficial thing we can do for a student who wins an outside scholarship is to reduce self-help -- loans and jobs. Since Princeton does not give student loans, we concentrate on reducing or eliminating the campus and summer job expectations. Given enough in the way of outside awards, both jobs can be eliminated, leaving the student with an aid package consisting entirely of grants and scholarships.

For more information, visit the undergraduate financial aid Web site or e-mail the financial aid office.


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