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Investing in Our Students

Presidential Letters 21-22

  • October 22, 2021

Dear students, staff, faculty and alums:

With the support of the Smith College Board of Trustees, I am extraordinarily pleased to announce a set of initiatives that advance our shared goals of college access and affordability.

Beginning with the fall 2022 semester, Smith 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. This historic change will benefit currently enrolled first-year, sophomore and junior students and Ada Comstock Scholars as well as future students.

This financial investment in our students advances the college’s goal to make a Smith education available to all qualified students regardless of family resources. Eliminating loans from our aid packages also aligns strongly with our institutional commitment to racial justice and equity—given that, on average, Black and Latina/o students, at Smith and across the nation, graduate with more student debt than their peers.

Also beginning with the fall 2022 semester, incoming undergraduate students with an expected family contribution of less than $7,000, as determined by Smith, will receive one-time “start-up grants” of $1,000 in addition to their financial aid packages. Approximately 21 percent of our students will qualify for these grants, which are intended to help students with expenses associated with the beginning of their Smith experience.

For seniors receiving need-based institutional grants who are graduating in January or May 2022, the college is pleased to offer one-time “launch grants” of $2,000 to help them with the costs of transitioning to life after college.

Taken together, these changes to our financial aid program represent a $7 million annual increase to the financial aid budget, benefiting more than 60 percent of our students; next year, Smith will award more than $90 million in financial aid. That we are able to make such a substantial investment at this time is a testament to the generosity of our alums and donors as well as the prudent management of our finances, especially our endowment.

Board of Trustees Chair Alison Overseth and I co-chaired the Enrollment Working Group that recommended these improvements to our financial aid awards to the board of trustees. We want to thank the other members of the working group: trustees Deborah DeCotis, Terry Hartle, Susan Molineaux and Beverly Morgan-Welch, as well as senior staff members David DeSwert, Laurie Fenlason, Joanna May and Cate Rowen.

Eliminating loans from financial aid packages will enable Smith to recruit and enroll the best students, regardless of family resources, and enable future alums to begin their careers or continue their studies with their debts greatly reduced or eliminated. It also affirms our commitment to racial justice and equity. Going forward, we will continue to make student financial support our top priority.

As many of you may know, I was the first in my family to attend college, and I know from my own experience that financial aid changes lives. Higher education should be a right, not a privilege. For this reason, I could not be more proud to share this great news with you.


Kathleen McCartney