Princeton responds to Congressional letter on endowments

March 31, 2016 2 p.m.

Princeton University has responded to a letter from the Senate Committee on Finance and the House Committee on Ways and Means by describing the ways in which the University uses its endowment to carry out its charitable and educational purposes.

In a letter to the chairs of the two committees and the Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee, President Christopher L. Eisgruber said "our endowment enables us to pursue our missions of teaching and research at a high level of quality and it allows us to ensure that Princeton is and remains affordable for students from all socioeconomic backgrounds." 

In his letter and in detailed responses to the committees' questions, Eisgruber pointed out that Princeton’s endowment is made up of more than 4,300 separate accounts, and that the purpose supported by the largest number of accounts is financial aid. Other accounts support faculty positions, research and teaching programs, library resources, and many other educational purposes.  

The University uses earnings on its endowment to cover half the cost of its annual operating budget and to meet high priority capital needs, and "to provide exceptional educational opportunities at both the undergraduate and graduate levels while charging only a fraction of the cost even to those students who pay full tuition.” 

More than 93 percent of Princeton’s $138.2 million undergraduate scholarship budget comes from University funds, with 80 percent of the University funds coming from the endowment. Approximately 60 percent of Princeton’s undergraduates receive financial aid, with an average grant that exceeds tuition, and with no reliance on loans, so students can graduate debt-free. The few students who chose to borrow have a total average debt at graduation of $6,600.

For families earning up to $65,000, Princeton's financial aid package typically covers the full cost of tuition plus room and board. For families with incomes up to $140,000, the grant fully covers tuition plus some room and board, and for families with incomes up to $180,000 the package covers more than half of tuition. Princeton provides some aid for families with incomes up to $250,000. 

With this level of need-based aid, Princeton has increased the percentage of students receiving Pell grants from 7.2% in the Class of 2008 to 18.0% in the Class of 2018.