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William & Mary will cover tuition and fees for in-state Pell students, aiming to increase their numbers

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Dive card:

  • William & Mary last week announced two initiatives for students who receive federal Pell Grants, which are a proxy for low-income students.
  • The Virginia public institution will award enough scholarships to cover tuition and fees for in-state Pell-eligible students beginning in the fall of 2023. The policy will cover both new, returning and transfer students.
  • Leaders also plan to enroll larger shares of in-state students eligible for Pell Grants. They hope to increase the share from 17% today to 20% in the next four years.

Dive Insight:

Billed as the second-oldest institution of higher education in the country, William & Mary has approximately 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students. It joins several other high-profile colleges that have offered increased commitments to financial aid and low-income students in recent months amid increased scrutiny of college affordability.

William & Mary plans to automatically award additional scholarships to cover tuition and fees when the new program takes effect next year. It also promises additional grants or scholarships for Pell-eligible students who demonstrate additional financial need.

When announcing the effort on Fridayleaders cast the move as part of growing efforts to enroll students who have not traditionally attended college.

“This is a minimum, not a maximum guarantee,” Tim Wolfe, dean of admissions, said in a statement. “The program announced today is part of a broad commitment to increase socioeconomic diversity across campus and to continue to support our students with financial need.”

William & Mary already provided significant financial aid to Pell students. The average Pell student in the state received $28,000 in aid beyond the Pell Grant, which tops out at $6,895 this year.

But that can still leave a gap for low-income students. For in-state students, tuition, fees, room and board, and books and other expenses at the institution total almost $41,000 before financial aid.

William & Mary has enough funds in its budget to cover the new program’s first year. After that, it is expected to cost $180,000 annually for three years.

Leaders estimate they need additional funding per class each year to increase Pell-eligible enrollment.

Other competitive institutions have launched new affordability efforts in the past year. Dartmouth College replaced undergraduate student loans with scholarships in JuneWilliams College eliminated loan and work requirements from its financial aid packages in Apriland Whitman College said in May it will meet full demonstrated financial need for in-state students beginning in fall 2023.

At the same time, policymakers have increasingly scrutinized college affordability. President Joe Biden’s August decision forgiving large chunks of student loan debt sparked a renewed debate about the cost of college. In Virginia, Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, has supported freezing tuition at public institutions, including during a William & Mary convocation speech in February.

“I strongly urge our college and university boards to exercise restraint with tuition increases just as you have during the pandemic,” Youngkin said, according to a press release. “William & Mary has shown real leadership in this area, finding efficiencies, working through collaboration and expanding partnerships to control costs. There are ways to grow universities without increasing tuition.”

William & Mary has kept tuition unchanged for in-state students for five consecutive years.

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