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How We Measure a Family's Capacity to Pay for a Swarthmore Education

In assessing a student's need for our support, we consider three components: the cost of a Swarthmore education, the family's capacity to pay for those costs, and other resources available to the family.


What does a Swarthmore education cost?

For the 2018-19 academic year, tuition, fees, room and board total $68,062. In addition to these actual expenses, we estimate that you will need to spend about $1,360 for books and related academic supplies and about $1,340 for personal expenses. For purposes of our analysis, we consider travel costs for two low‐cost, round‐trip fares between your home and the College. Keep in mind the fact that campus activities such as lectures, concerts, movies, athletic events, and social events are available to all students without additional charge.

What do we expect our families to contribute?

The financial statements you and your parents submitted for our review provided us details of your family's 2016 income and current assets. The uniform need‐analysis system offered by the College Scholarship Service (CSS) of The College Board provided us some guidance in our decision. Among our considerations were standard expenses for maintaining a family of your size in your area of the country including food, housing, clothing, utilities, insurance, transportation, etc. We consider greater expenses when separated or divorced parents maintain two households. We also considered your parents' federal tax liabilities; their ages; family medical expenses; some educational expenses for your siblings; and parents' needs for retirement savings protection. We also take into account unusual expenses or unusual situations, if you provided this information to us. Swarthmore makes extra allowances for families' special circumstance: Elder care and childcare expenses; the higher cost of living in some areas of the country; a reduced influence of home equity in our analysis; and the influence of parents investments and savings which is reduced in our analysis if they will not have retirement savings in congruence with their age. We exclude from our consideration the student's previous year income. Parents’ funds saved in their childrens' names are treated as parents assets and so have less influence; and we allow for parents repayments of loans for their own educations. We have employed these special allowances when reading your application. Please note that the College cannot consider a sibling’s graduate school expenses or undergraduate expenses for siblings who attend longer than eight (8) semesters.

What do we expect students to contribute?

We presume that you will work during the summer and save at least $2,000 if you will be a first‐year student in the fall semester, or $2,500 if you will be a continuing student (greater because your summer is longer). Swarthmore Scholarship cannot be increased for students who do not work or do not save this presumed share. All assets you hold (whether they are presently liquid or not) are considered in our analysis. We expect that 25% of the starting balance of students’ originally reported assets will be contributed each year you are at Swarthmore—regardless of how and when you choose to spend those resources.

Other resources

Other sources we expect will aid you during the coming year may include veteran’s benefits, tuition grants from parents' employers, or national or community‐based scholarships received by students.


“Might Swarthmore reconsider its aid decision?”

Yes, we will consider information that is new or needs to be corrected.  If that is your situation, please let us know, and provide us with the new or corrected information.  If you do not have corrections or new information, however, there will not be any basis for reconsideration.  We will take another look at your information, but we do not employ a different set of policies or principles in a second look, so the outcome is likely to be the same.

Our assessment of your family's capacity to cover your Swarthmore costs was based on information your family provided. Current asset strength and 2016 incomes were the basis of our decision.  If 2017 income will be considerably lower (and beyond parents'control), and if you have not already provided us that information, we may review your file based upon new documentation and completion of additional information. You may contact your student's assigned financial aid director (see our website for contact information). Please note that we can consider standard living expenses only. We cannot consider your family's actual living expenses, consumer debts, parents' educational expenses, or your siblings' graduate school expenses.

“What about the possibility for Swarthmore College scholarship support in the future? Is a “no” now a “no” for all subsequent years?”

You are welcome to reapply for Swarthmore financial aid each year.  Since our analysis is related to Swarthmore charges and family resources, your award might change as our costs increase or if your family's capacity to contribute decreases. You  may  reapply  in future years  to  let  us  know  about  an  increase  in  the  number  of undergraduate siblings; a decrease in your parents' incomes; unusual medical expenses; or other changes in your family’s financial situation.  Scholarship opportunities from the College are based on a quantitative review of a family’s financial situation, not on qualitative review of a student’s merits.

"May I work on campus?"

Yes. All students are able to work on campus. Each year about 1,200 of our 1,500 students choose to work on campus. The Student Employment Office (SEO) will lead orientation sessions, host a job fair, and meet with students during office hours. Our Student Payroll Office will help you complete the required paperwork (you must have a photo ID and proof of citizenship such as a Social Security card or birth certificate – if you have a passport that is all that you need). A more detailed explanation of this process will be provided as part of the Dean’s Office “First Year Mailing” this summer. The 2018‐19 wage ranges from $9.70 to $10.40 per hour.

Visit the SEO website at:

"Do you want me at Swarthmore?"

We certainly do!  Admission and financial aid decisions are made separately at Swarthmore, and aid policies cannot be altered to attract a particular student.  Your talents, skills, academic credentials, and contributions are highly valued by Swarthmore, as evidenced by your admission to the college. However, they are not considered in our financial aid decisions.

“We used the net price calculator to determine our eligibility for financial aid.   Why doesn't Swarthmore’s decision match that calculator’s result?”

Online calculators do not factor in all of Swarthmore’s policies and practices. In addition, calculators cannot handle the complications when parents have an interest or involvement in a business, when income is derived from a rental property or other business, or when parents maintain separate households.  Only after our experienced and knowledgeable aid administrators carefully read each applicant’s file can Swarthmore make the corrections and extra allowances or more generous approaches we find so appropriate in reaching fair and equitable decisions.

“My Federal Student Aid Report says that I am eligible for federal aid. Why am I not eligible for Swarthmore aid?”

The federal allocation process is  used  only  to  determine  your  eligibility  for  federal  aid,  but it does not  affect Swarthmore’s  decisions for institutional aid. If you are eligible for federal student aid—after we perform the required verification of your FAFSA data—you may certainly take advantage of federal aid resources.