Skip Navigation

Student Loans Frequently Asked Questions

Smith College made a historic announcement that beginning in the fall of 2022, the college will eliminate loans from its undergraduate financial aid packages for students receiving need-based institutional grants and replace the loan amount with grants from the college.


How is Smith’s financial aid support changing?
Smith College has announced an ambitious initiative to financially support students by 1) eliminating loans from its financial aid packages, 2) providing low-income entering students with one-time start-up grants, and 3) providing students receiving institutional need-based grants graduating in 2022 with one-time launch grants. This initiative advances the college’s goal of ensuring that the college experience is equitable for all students, regardless of family finances.

Why is Smith expanding student support?
From its inception, Smith College has embodied the principle of education access and equity. Sophia Smith envisioned a college where women would receive an outstanding education, the kind that was, in her time, available only to men. Over the course of our history, we have aspired to enroll the world’s best students, regardless of means, as well as to ensure that students can participate equitably in all that Smith has to offer. Smith provides more than $80 million annually in institutional financial aid, and we have been leaders in enrolling Pell Grant-eligible students. The generosity of alums and donors, as well as prudent management of our finances—especially our endowment—allows us to make this investment at this time. Eliminating loans from financial aid packages represents a next step in equalizing the experience for students, regardless of family resources.

No-Loan Eligibility

Who is eligible for no-loan financial aid packages?
All undergraduate students receiving institutional grant aid—including international students and undocumented students—who meet established deadlines.

Does this program apply to international students?
Yes—all undergraduate students, including those attending Smith with a student visa and those with permanent resident status, are eligible.

Are undocumented students eligible for the program?
Yes—all undergraduate students, including undocumented students and students with DACA status, are eligible.

Does this apply to students who entered Smith as transfer students or Ada Comstock Scholars?
Yes—all undergraduate students will be eligible for this benefit. 

Does this apply to graduate students at Smith?
No. This policy change applies only to Smith undergraduates.

Start-up Grants

What are the one-time “start-up grants”?
Start-up grants are intended to help low-income students with expenses associated with the beginning of their college experience. They will be available to students whose expected family contribution (as determined by Smith) is less than $7,000.

Who will qualify for a start-up grant?
Any new, entering high-need student whose Expected Family Contribution (as determined by Smith) is less than $7,000 will be eligible beginning in fall 2022.

How many students will receive start-up grants?
On average, approximately 20 percent of Smith’s incoming students would be eligible for start-up grants.

Why is Smith offering start-up grants to low-income students?
We know that starting college can include expenses that are not fully planned for and that, for some students, those unexpected expenses can make college more difficult. The start-up grants are designed to help ease the pressures of everyday expenses, such as furnishing a dorm room, participating in social activities and local excursions, and meeting the personal needs of daily life. Smith already covers costs associated with books, tuition, room and board, and travel at designated breaks.

When/how will entering students receive their start-up grant payment?
We are determining how and when students will receive this grant and will update eligible students prior to enrollment.

Launch Grants

What are “launch grants”?
Launch grants are intended to help undergraduate students transition into life after college. Students receiving need-based institutional grants and graduating in 2022 (either in January or May) will be issued a grant.

How many students will receive launch grants?
Any graduating senior who has received Smith College need-based grant assistance in the 2021–22 academic year will receive a launch grant. The plan is to process these payments around the same time as graduation (including January graduates).

Will launch grants exist for future classes?
No. Launch grants are available only for the class of 2022.

Financial Aid Implications

What does this mean for my aid package?
Financial aid awards beginning in fall 2022 will include only grants and a work expectation, which will be awarded up to the full demonstrated financial need as determined by the Office of Student Financial Services.

Will you forgive loans I have already taken on?
No. Existing loans already awarded will remain the responsibility of the borrower to pay back. The no-loan program applies to financial aid packages beginning in fall 2022.

Can I still borrow loans if I want to do so?
While this new program is intended to address student indebtedness, students will still be allowed to borrow from the Federal Direct Loan Program. Students seeking loan assistance should contact the Office of Student Financial Services to inquire what type of loan, and amount, would be possible.

Especially for Alums

I love hearing what Smith is doing to support its students. How can I participate?
Smith is committed to dismantling the financial barriers that can deter even the most promising students from applying to college. Learn more about our Here for Every Voice campaign and join us.

I am a recent Smith graduate still paying my own student loans. Does my small gift to The Smith Fund really matter?

  • Yes! Smith would not be here without the generosity of generations of alums, which means the future of Smith rests on all of our shoulders. From small denominations to big dollars, every gift matters, and your participation sends a message that you understand, are grateful for and want to be part of the continuum. Participation, at every level, makes a difference in class pride, college rankings, and, most importantly, in the lives of Smith students.

This is great news! Why didn't the college relieve our students of their loan burdens sooner?

  • In recent years, Smith has offered financial assistance in many ways, including covering the cost of health insurance for low-income students, covering the upfront costs of learning disability testing, designating a resource person for low-income students, and equalizing access to computers and other technology resources. 
  • Even so, there is always more Smith can do to equalize the student experience, and we continue to make this our top priority. Indeed, President McCartney has made access a signature part of her presidency.
  • Thanks to generous contributions from alums and friends of Smith, as well as strong performance from our investments, we are now able to make an even bigger investment in our students by eliminating loans. 
  • With our announcement, Smith is joining a select group of no-loan schools, including Amherst, Harvard, Yale and Princeton. We are the first women’s college to go no-loan for all of our students.

By eliminating loans, Smith will be able to recruit and enroll the best students, regardless of family circumstances. How is Smith ensuring that this initiative is known to the candidates we seek to reach?

  • Admissions and our network of thousands of dedicated volunteers are actively working to spread the good news about this announcement. We have emailed prospective students and parents and school and community-based organization counselors. Targeted messages will be posted on the college’s various social media channels and throughout the Smith website. Alums and Smith fans can help us spread the word to great students as well!
  • We hope that announcing this decision in October will encourage students to consider applying to Smith and strengthen our financial aid packages for students admitted to the class of 2026.
  • We know that equity and inclusion improve learning outcomes. We also know that students cannot learn if their basic needs are unmet. As Professor Anthony Abrahaman Jack, author of The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges are Failing Poor Students, has said, “Citizenship is so much more than just being in a place. It is being of it, with all the rights and privileges pertaining thereto.” Offering students start-up grants will help to level the playing field.