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Financial Fitness

Every year, Vice President and Dean of Admissions Jim Bock ’90 and Director of Financial Aid Varo Duffıns work to ensure that every student who applies to Swarthmore has the best chance of attending without having to worry about the burden of debt.

Thanks to those efforts, and to the generosity of generations of donors, while the annual sticker price to attend Swarthmore has risen to $71,000 in the past 20 years, the average cost for students receiving need-based financial aid has remained constant at about $16,500. Bock and Duffiıns explain how Swarthmore provides maximum financial support for the best and brightest admittees. 

Swarthmore is one of only 11 U.S. colleges to offer need-blind admissions and meet a family’s full determined need without the expectation of student loans. What does this mean for our students?

Bock: Swarthmore does not include a loan as part of any financial aid offer.

Our Financial Aid Offıce determines the need of each family, and if there  is a gap between our total costs and what the family is determined to be able to afford, the College awards that family a Swarthmore scholarship and a campus job opportunity.

This freedom allows the admissions team to review applications without regard to the student’s ability to pay. That means we can focus on the student’s academic preparation, potential, and involvement in their community, and decide how the student might be transformed by the Swarthmore experience, as well as how the student might contribute to the campus community. There is no college or university in the country — including Swarthmore — that is considered a “no loan” school. But what Swarthmore does offer are “loan-free” financial aid decisions, and that has reduced the overall cost of a Swarthmore education over the years for countless families. 

Duffins: Not having to borrow loans every year is hugely beneficial to a student over the course of four years. This is especially true for young alumni whose peers from other colleges will likely carry some balance of student loan debt after graduation 

Why don’t more colleges offer need-blind admissions? 

Duffins: Need-blind admissions is expensive in terms of potential cost to the financial aid budget as well as to the selectivity and yield of an applicant pool. Being need-blind is an option that I expect most institutions would want to employ if they could afford to do so.

Bock: Swarthmore is fortunate to be able to practice need-blind admissions. Our ability to admit students based on their talent and potential rather than their ability to pay is central to the College’s commitment to access and inclusion. The reality is that it requires a significant investment by the College — nearly $50 million each year. We’re only able to maintain that commitme commitment to access through the strength of endowment and the extreme generosity of our alumni and donors 

Why is need-blind admissions so important to Swarthmore? 

Bock: Too many deserving students assume they will not qualify for enough financial aid to attend Swarthmore based on our “sticker price,” which is the price people see when they look up how much it costs to attend a given school. As the only child of a widowed working mother, I remember telling her that Swarthmore was too expensive, and she replied, “If we can’t afford it, you’re not going.” At the time, I thought that made sense, yet submitted my Common Application and the $50 fee, which we could afford. In the end, it made all the difference. Despite being the most expensive school to which I applied, Swarthmore ended up being the most affordable school for me and my family, thanks to the financial aid I received. I remain grateful for the generosity of alumni and donors who came before me and to those who have given to financial aid over the last 30 years to allow the Admissions Offıce to continue to practice need-blind admissions.