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President Daniel H. Weiss announced the initiatives to the Lafayette community today (March 17, 2008):

I am pleased to inform you of important new initiatives that will help us to achieve greater access to Lafayette for qualified students regardless of their ability to pay while strengthening the College’s student-centered learning environment.

The Board of Trustees has approved changes in our financial-aid policies that will reduce the extent of loans in the need-based aid packages that we provide to students from families with incomes of $100,000 or less. This investment in additional financial aid significantly advances our strategic objective of attracting and supporting a diverse campus community and fulfills an important social mission by furthering access to higher education for all.

The College also is investing substantially in reducing the student/faculty ratio. By the end of this academic year, searches will be under way for 8 to 10 new faculty members. Our plan is to increase the overall size of the faculty by 35 positions (approximately 20 percent) over the next five years, without increasing the size of the student body. We will hire 8 to 10 new faculty members each year until this goal is reached and our student/faculty ratio is reduced from the current 11:1 to below 10:1, a level that more closely matches that of premier small colleges.

I am also pleased to add that the College has selected Ayers Saint Gross, a leading architectural and planning firm headquartered in Baltimore, to assist in developing a campus master plan. In the next few years, the College plans to construct several new facilities, including a life sciences building, an admissions welcome center, and an academic building to accommodate the increased size of the faculty. We also plan to improve several existing buildings that require attention, all while taking significant steps to create a sustainable campus environment.

These ambitious initiatives, key elements in our strategic plan to strengthen Lafayette’s academic core and its human capital, reflect our exceptional commitment to student-centered learning. Strong interaction between students and faculty is the heart of Lafayette’s academic program. It is the defining feature and distinctive strength of our college. Growing the faculty is a vital step in creating a truly extraordinary learning environment in which every student can benefit from both unsurpassed academic, professional, and personal mentoring and an opportunity to be guided by professors committed to working individually with students. To complement this, we’re taking a bold new step in an ongoing effort to ensure that no student who has the ability and motivation to flourish academically at Lafayette is denied access on the basis of limited personal financial resources. This too promises to enhance our learning environment. By making a Lafayette education available to a broader socioeconomic range of students, we will provide increased opportunities for productive exchanges within a diverse student body.

With our enhancements to financial aid, Lafayette joins a small group of elite universities and liberal arts colleges that have made significant financial-aid changes in recent months. Our new policy builds upon the College’s commitment to meet the full demonstrated need of all students admitted under both early and regular decision who submit the required documents by the specified deadlines.

Effective with the 2008-09 academic year, the College will eliminate loans from the need-based financial-aid packages awarded to students from families whose incomes are less than $50,000 and whose financial assets are typical of families with this annual income level. The College will meet these students’ demonstrated need with aid packages featuring only grants and a modest work-study award.

Beginning in 2009-10, the College will limit the loan portions of need-based financial-aid packages awarded to students from families whose incomes are between $50,000 and $100,000 and whose financial assets are typical of families with this annual income level. Loans will be limited to $2,500 per year.

The aid policy pertains to both new and returning Lafayette students who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents. It will benefit those who need it most, improving eligible students’ undergraduate experience and, potentially, their post-graduate outcomes by reducing their burden of part-time work while they are enrolled here and reducing their burden of indebtedness upon graduation.

We also expect that the move will strengthen Lafayette’s competitive position nationally with respect to attracting talented low-and-middle-income students in the face of announcements by competitors of new aid initiatives targeting these income groups.

While the new policy will mean that many students’ financial-aid packages will now include no loans or reduced loans, the College will continue its policy for all other students of assembling need-based financial-aid packages so that at least 75 percent of each student’s need is met with a grant. Lafayette awards need-based grants or scholarships funded by the College to more than half of our students each year. Last year, 54 percent of our students received College-funded grants and scholarships totaling $26.1 million. Next year this total will rise to more than $29 million.

I am pleased to report on the new financial aid policy and the other steps in the first phase of implementing our strategic plan that are outlined here. They are integral to the fulfillment of our aspirations to build academic programs of unsurpassed quality, make Lafayette a truly great undergraduate institution, and strengthen our standing among America’s leading small colleges. Thank you for your interest and support.

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