February 13, 2012

Letter: Financial aid

Recent financial aid changes demonstrate commitment to affordable education for all.

Earlier this month I joined one of the quarterly conversations with students organized by our two student liaisons to the Board of Trustees. After each one of these, I walk away impressed by the thoughtfulness of the exchange. I appreciate the time so many students take to learn more about their University and make their voices heard.

Much of our meeting was devoted to a detailed discussion of tuition and financial aid, but I am concerned that the Maroon’s brief report may have left some misimpressions. In my comments to the students, I tried to emphasize a core University value that informs all of our decisions on this topic: We are committed to making a University of Chicago education affordable for all qualified students.

That is why, when the 2008-2009 financial crisis forced so many sacrifices at the University, spending on undergraduate financial aid grew significantly. That is why, through the Odyssey Scholarship program, the University is now replacing loans with grants for more than 1,100 College students.

A first-rate undergraduate education is expensive to provide, and a portion of that expense is reflected in the top-line tuition figure for the College. But there are two related statistics that offer a fuller picture of what families pay: Last year, more than half of our College students received need-based financial aid. The average total of grants for those students was $34,650.

As chair of the Board of Trustees, I am fortunate to be part of many conversations among trustees, officers, deans, alumni, faculty, staff and students. At every level, I hear a shared commitment not only to uphold financial aid as a University priority, but to find new ways to help make education affordable. That is more than rhetoric; University Trustees have personally donated more than $43 million for scholarships and financial aid over the last 10 years, including nearly $24 million for aid to College students. I am proud of that, and proud of the hard work of so many at this University to make sure that cost does not prevent qualified students from getting the truly great education offered here.

Andrew M. Alper

Chair, Board of Trustees