Hanlon: Pandemic Calls for Financial Aid Response

News subtitle

A new presidential commission will champion strategies of access and affordability.

Aerial photo of Dartmouth campus

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis, Dartmouth is strengthening its effort to ensure access to a liberal arts education for all students, regardless of their ability to pay, President Philip J. Hanlon ’77 announced on May 14.

President Hanlon outlined a plan of urgent action that encompasses all of Dartmouth’s schools, to benefit undergraduates and graduate students. The plan includes a new goal to expand the family-income threshold for a full-tuition undergraduate scholarship to $125,000, a renewed emphasis on annual giving, creation of a special scholarship bridge fund, and increasing Dartmouth’s endowed scholarships.

Calling the global pandemic and economic downturn “our leadership moment,” Hanlon pledged that the College community will not waver from its commitment to uphold need-blind admission practices for undergraduates while meeting the full demonstrated financial need of all new and continuing students regardless of citizenship.

Speaking in an online community meeting attended by more than 550 alumni and parent volunteer leaders, the president described the economic toll of the past two months, noting that, in the face of unprecedented national unemployment that is clearly impacting Dartmouth families, a surging number of appeals have been received by the College’s Office of Financial Aid from current and accepted students during the past eight weeks.

“Families from all financial backgrounds are wondering whether they can attend—or return to—Dartmouth next year without additional scholarship support and we are committed to responding to that new and urgent need,” said Hanlon. “Our mission, so critical to our nation and our world, is grounded in the premise that talent, drive, and promise are distributed equally among us. Here, students from across the globe and from every socioeconomic background leap into a crucible of ideas, values, cultures, and beliefs often entirely different from their own. The society we become tomorrow will be led by the students we educate today.”

Hanlon announced the establishment of the Presidential Commission on Financial Aid to study the impact of the crisis on higher education, given the historic role of scholarships as an agent of opportunity and social mobility. The commission will be co-chaired by accomplished Dartmouth volunteer leaders Leslie Dahl ’85 and Bob Dahl P’18 and Julie McKenna ’89 and David McKenna ’89, P’18, ’24.

“Julie, Dave, Leslie, and Bob honor Dartmouth with their belief in this urgent enterprise,” said chair of the Dartmouth Board of Trustees Laurel Richie ’81. “By enlisting their leadership, the president has identified individuals who have demonstrated a lifelong commitment to creating educational opportunity and who bring the best of themselves to every undertaking.”

Scholarship Need of Historic Proportions

Dartmouth anticipates an increase of $8 million to $10 million more in undergraduate scholarships for the next academic year beyond the budget already approved by the Trustees of $120 million—an unprecedented one-year increase. The College forecasts a similar increase in the following academic year, for a total of $16 million to $20 million in additional financial aid need during the next two fiscal years.

The expected surge in scholarship need is emerging as Dartmouth takes a series of measures to reduce costs in the face of anticipated combined operating losses of up to $100 million by June 30, the close of fiscal 2020. Actions to date include a freeze on hiring through December, cancellation of salary increases for the next fiscal year, and multiple targeted spending reductions—and Hanlon said the College will announce more cost-saving measures in the coming weeks. He noted that he had committed 20 percent of his salary in support of the Dartmouth College Fund.

Reducing expenditures, however, will not be enough, said Hanlon. Despite the economic crisis, he said, the Dartmouth community is rising to the challenge.

“We’ve worked far too hard to achieve socioeconomic diversity in our student body and we’ve seen how deeply it enriches our campus. To back down now from our commitment to need-blind admissions and meeting full need of our students would be tragic,” said Hanlon. “To the contrary, now is a time to show, to the students and families yearning for the chance to succeed, that our commitment is stronger than ever.”


Philip J. Hanlon '77 talks to students
During matriculation in 2016, members of the Class of 2020 gathered in Parkhurst to sign the Dartmouth Citizenship Pledge and speak with President Philip J. Hanlon ’77. (Photo by Eli Burakian ’00)


The Presidential Commission

One of only a few presidential commissions to be convened in Dartmouth’s 250-year history, the commission will advise the president on a wide range of issues related to financial aid, including an in-depth appreciation for student and family need, insight into the economic forces that inform college decisions, and efforts to enhance the effectiveness of Dartmouth’s financial aid resources in supporting student success.

The commission will work closely with the president and Provost Joseph J. Helble to mobilize the Dartmouth community around a shared commitment to access and affordability and champion fundraising efforts to raise the remaining $300 million for The Call to Lead campaign’s financial aid initiatives.

“Ensuring that our students have the resources they need has always been a Dartmouth priority, a challenge made more pressing due to current economic conditions,” said Leslie Dahl. “This priority is a cornerstone of the Dartmouth experience for all students.”

Dave McKenna said ensuring a bright future for all Dartmouth students—those already enrolled and prospective students hoping to attend—is at the heart of the commission’s work.

“We’re in this together if we choose to be. And at Dartmouth, we choose to be,” he said. “The bottom has fallen out unbelievably fast for many families. Dinner table conversations for these families have gotten increasingly tough and desperate. But a transformative Dartmouth education should not fall victim to COVID-19.”

A Financial Aid Plan to Bridge the Crisis

Hanlon outlined a plan that will open the promise of Dartmouth to more students globally and eliminate their financial obstacles to attendance. With the College’s longstanding commitment to meet 100 percent of students’ demonstrated financial need for all four years, the College announced a goal of expanding the income threshold for a full-tuition scholarship from $100,000 to $125,000; eliminate loans from all financial aid awards; and become one of only six colleges and universities in the United States to guarantee need-blind admissions to non-U.S. citizens.

To realize this plan to benefit all five schools across the campus by 2023, the campaign will seek support for financial aid through three priority programs:

  • A renewed emphasis on annual giving, including the Dartmouth College Fund and the Parents Fund, which together provide approximately half of all financial aid awarded to undergraduates.
  • Creation of a special $20 million scholarship bridge fund that will enable Dartmouth to meet the unprecedented increase in financial aid need during each of the next two academic years.
  • A heightened focus on endowed scholarship funds, which will strengthen and distinguish Dartmouth’s financial aid offerings. The Call to Lead campaign has a $500 million goal for endowed scholarships. Through the generosity of hundreds of donors, the College to date has secured approximately $204 million toward that target.

“This is an extraordinarily bold undertaking in extraordinarily difficult times. But this is what Dartmouth does best,” said Hanlon. “When crisis strikes, we roll up our sleeves and ask how we can help. We pull together as a community for what we know is important and right. And we will need the help of every single member of the extended Dartmouth family to make it happen.”

For further information, please go to https://calltolead.dartmouth.edu/

Office of Communications