Rhiju Chakraborty ’27
On Sept. 28, 2023, President Michael Roth of Wesleyan University released a statement announcing that loans would be removed from all student financial aid packages, beginning in the Fall 2024 semester. “Having already eliminated loans for highly aided students, this should help middle-income families eligible for financial aid find Wesleyan more affordable,” wrote the Editorial Staff of the Wesleyan Connection. The university joins Yale as the second institution of higher education in Connecticut to completely remove loans from financial-aid packages. Similar to Wesleyan before this decision, Connecticut College offers loan-free financial aid packages to students from low-income families.
Wesleyan’s no-loans policy will affect both institutional loans that come directly from the university, and federal loans that are allotted after filing out the FAFSA. Previously, the university only gave institutional loans to international and undocumented students, while domestic students depended on federal loans as a means to finance their education. The new policy will end this practice and instead offer students institutional grants, which are not paid back, to finance their education. Over twenty colleges, including many of Trinity’s NESCAC peers, have already committed to meeting students’ full-estimated financial need without loans, instead offering grants, scholarships and other support. Amherst, Bowdoin, Colby, Vassar, Williams and now Wesleyan offer completely loan-free financial aid for all students.
The announcement comes as colleges and incoming students across the United States continue to grapple with nationwide rising student-loan debt. The cost of tuition for higher education has nearly tripled in the last 50 years, with over 43.5 million Americans still paying off their student loans. Their debt totals to almost $1.7 trillion. Wesleyan’s decision also comes after the Supreme Court recently struck down President Joe Biden’s ambitious student-loan forgiveness plan over the summer, which planned to erase over $400 billion in debt. Earlier this month, President Biden also canceled an additional $9 billion in student-loan debt as federal student-loan repayments restarted after a three-year pause due to the pandemic.
Although Trinity College does commit to meeting student’s full financial need as calculated by FAFSA, the college does include loans in its financial aid packages for both domestic and international students. It is currently unclear whether Wesleyan’s change in financial aid practices, alongside decisions made at other institutions, will spur similar changes to the loan policies at Trinity College. Amin Abdul-Malik Gonzalez, Wesleyan’s vice president and dean of admission and financial aid, reflected, “When students complete Wesleyan degrees, their career and life choices should be guided by their passions and talents, and not by the necessity of paying off loans.”