$300-million Financial Aid Initiative Launched

Calling it "crucial to Duke's long-term ability to attract the very best students and to make quality education affordable for all families," President Richard H. Brodhead announced in December that Duke plans to raise $300 million in new endowment funds over the next three years to strengthen financial-aid programs for students. The Financial Aid Initiative seeks $245 million for undergraduate aid, including $15 million for athletic scholarships, and $55 million to support graduate and professional-school students.

In a speech outlining the initiative, Brodhead said that $148.6 million of the $300-million goal has already been given or pledged, including $100 million to be used to encourage other donors by matching new gifts on a dollar-for-dollar basis, the largest amount ever available to Duke for matching purposes. That $100 million includes $75 million committed in October by The Duke Endowment and an additional $25 million pledged by four sets of donors: Kevin R. and Gayla J. Compton, parents of Elena Compton '06; Bruce Karsh '77, a trustee, and his wife, Martha Karsh; Robert K. Steel '73, chair of the university's board of trustees, and his wife, Gillian Steel; and Karl von der Heyden '62, vice chair of the university's board of trustees, and his wife, Mary Ellen von der Heyden.

Brodhead has repeatedly emphasized that increasing financial-aid endowment is a core university goal. "When we invest in financial aid, we're investing in the development of talent, and so investing in our social future."

New financial-aid resources will ensure the university's long-term ability to maintain a "need-blind" admissions policy, while continuing to strengthen its academic and other programs, according to Provost Peter Lange. "This commitment to financial aid has enabled Duke to enroll a much more socially and economically diverse student body, while significantly increasing the intellectual quality of our students."

Duke is among a small number of universities across the country with a need-blind admissions policy that admits students without regard to their ability to pay. It commits to provide a four-year financial-aid package to meet the demonstrated financial need of qualified students. Some 40 percent of Duke's undergraduates receive need-based aid from the university in financial-aid packages that consist of grants, loans, and work-study that average about $28,000. Of that, $21,000 is in outright grants from the university. Last year, Duke invested about $129 million in financial aid.

Brodhead said that, compared with its chief rivals, far less of Duke's financial-aid budget comes from restricted endowments. "Duke meets its aid commitments out of the same pool of funds that supports most everything else here, including academic programs." The result, he said, is that in lean years, "Duke's need to fund student aid will be in competition with its need to fund the programs that would make top students and faculty want to come here in the first place." 

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