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Oberlin Eliminates Loan Requirements for Incoming Class of Pell-Eligible Students

Learn More about the New Oberlin Access Initiative
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OBERLIN, OHIO — In keeping with its 175-year history of leading the way on access to an excellent liberal arts education, Oberlin College is eliminating loan requirements for incoming first-year students eligible for federally funded Pell Grants. The Oberlin Access Initiative will also eliminate loans for all current, Pell-eligible students returning to Oberlin in the fall, the College announced today.

"We take great pride in Oberlin's historic and continuing commitment to providing access to students from all backgrounds," said Marvin Krislov, Oberlin's president. "This initiative allows us to ensure that students from the neediest families do not have to bear the burden of loans during their college years. For these students, even a modest loan may limit their choices of majors, internships, and careers."

The Oberlin Access Initiative kicks off a broader effort to ensure access to Oberlin for students from families with limited means. The initiative is being funded by generous contributions from Oberlin's Board of Trustees, alumni, and staff.

Eliminating loans for the approximately 50 Pell-eligible students expected to matriculate in late summer 2008, throughout their four years at Oberlin, was made possible by a $1.2 million pledge from trustee Clyde McGregor '74. These students, coming from families that are among the most disadvantaged in American society, will be known as "McGregor Scholars."

Maintaining access to higher education by reducing the financial burden on students from middle and lower-income families is a growing challenge for universities and colleges in the United States. Oberlin College already provides some form of financial aid to about 70 percent of its students, many more than at most of its peer schools. This year Oberlin will spend $41.3 million on financial aid, a 280-percent increase compared to just 14 years ago.

The Oberlin Access Initiative will benefit the approximately 50 Pell-eligible students expected to matriculate in late summer 2008. It will also apply to each of the 313 Pell students currently enrolled who return for the 2008-2009 academic year.  

The Pell Grant program provides need-based grants to low-income students to promote access to postsecondary education. Nearly 12 percent of current Oberlin students qualify for Pell Grants. The majority of families receiving Pell assistance earn less than $35,000 a year.

Pioneering access for worthy students to a liberal arts education was a driving factor in the founding of Oberlin College in 1833. Under its motto "learning and labor," Oberlin became in 1835 the first institution of higher education in America to adopt a policy to admit students of color, and, in 1841, the first to award bachelor's degrees to women in a coeducational program. That commitment to access and diversity also shaped and lives on at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, The Conservatory is the oldest, continuously operating conservatory in the United States.

"We want to ensure that Oberlin continues to attract talented, high-ability students from all walks of life," said Robert Lemle '75, chair of the Board of Trustees. "The Oberlin Access Initiative highlights our historic leadership in educating people of all races and genders, and from across the socioeconomic spectrum. This commitment to access and diversity has always been central to the character of an Oberlin education."

The College is working to raise the funds needed to endow its access initiative in perpetuity. "Building an endowment that will support our access goals is challenging," President Krislov said. "But it is the best way to ensure that Oberlin's excellence in arts and humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and conservatory education will remain within reach of talented and deserving students."

Oberlin already aids a greater percentage of its students than do most leading liberal arts colleges and private universities, according to Debra Chermonte, Oberlin's dean of admissions and financial aid. In the current academic year, Oberlin's average aid package is $25,000 annually, with about 80 percent of that amount coming in scholarship grants from the College.

The College was able to increase the diversity of its incoming class in the fall of 2007 through partnerships with the Posse and QuestBridge programs, which recruit and provide orientation aimed at the needs of first-generation and multicultural students to increase their success in college. One goal of the Oberlin Access Initiative is to raise private funds to ensure the continuation of these diversity programs, which currently are paid for through operating monies. The College committed more than $750,000 last year in financial aid to provide full scholarships for students recruited through the Posse and QuestBridge programs.

Enrollment at Oberlin College is approximately 2,800 students. Annual tuition and fees are $38,280 for the 2008-09 academic year.

Media Contact:
Scott Wargo

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