The pageantry of President Michael Roth’s inauguration was the backdrop for his announcement Nov. 2 that Wesleyan will lower loan levels beginning with next year’s entering class and eliminate loans for most students with family incomes up to $40,000.
A standing-room only crowd of more than 1,500 people witnessed the inauguration in the Silloway Gymnasium, festively decorated for the occasion. The ceremony included greetings from Beverly Daniel Tatum ’75, president of Spelman College, and remarks from Carl Schorske P’81, an emeritus professor of both Wesleyan and Princeton who supervised Roth’s dissertation work at Princeton. Schorske had taught former president Douglas J. Bennet ’59 and spoke at his inauguration in 1995.
Greetings from the Wesleyan community came from Gary Yohe P’02, chair of the faculty and Woodhouse/Sysco Professor of Economics; Matthew Ball ’08, president of the Wesleyan Student Assembly; and Nancy Stack ’74, chair of the Alumni Association.
After receiving his charge from Jim Dresser ’63, chair of the Board of Trustees, Roth spoke about teaching, scholarship, and institution-building. [See next page for the text of Roth’s address.] His announcement about loan levels drew enthusiastic applause.
“In the last two months we have prepared a plan to reduce dramatically the amount of money we ask students to borrow to attend our school,” Roth said. “Starting with the frosh class entering in 2008, we will significantly decrease student indebtedness and entirely eliminate required borrowing for our neediest students by substituting grants for loans.
“Since developing this plan, I have been greatly encouraged by the support already offered by our alumni and parents. From West Coast to East, we have received several generous gifts to the endowment that will support this initiative. In the last several weeks we have received more than $10 million in gifts to support student aid.
“The Wesleyan family is engaged, supportive, and generous because we, ourselves, have experienced the gift of the education offered here.”
In addition to eliminating loans for the neediest students, the initiative will reduce the four-year total loan indebtedness for all other students receiving aid by an average of 35 percent. Aid packages will include a single student loan, the federally subsidized Stafford Loan, which offers interest rates among the lowest available.
Wesleyan will raise endowment sufficient to fund the $3.2-million annual cost of this initiative. Forty percent of Wesleyan’s 2,900 students currently receive grant aid averaging $27,151 per student. The university budgets $35.4 million of its own resources annually for grant aid, which is supplemented by an additional $2.7 million from federal and state sources.
Wesleyan’s announcement coincided with news that Williams College is eliminating the use of loans in financial aid packages. Last spring Davidson College announced a similar move. Bowdoin College is considering a change in loan policy, according to a report in Inside Higher Education, and Colby College announced in November that it would eliminate loans for Maine residents.