Socioeconomic Diversity, Scholarships, and Financial Aid

On Jan. 28, The New York Times published a story positing that a higher percentage of students at elite colleges are from the top one percent of the income scale than experts realized. The story was based on a study that used anonymous tax filings and tuition records from college graduates.

Colorado College was named in the story as one of 38 colleges that had more students from the top one percent than from the bottom 60 percent of the income scale.

Colorado College is working to expand access to a CC education, and has been actively seeking to increase the financial capabilities to do so. The college has identified raising additional funds for need-based aid as a major goal and plans to raise $90 million in the coming years for scholarship support.

“The college is firmly committed to the importance of higher education as an engine of opportunity and the idea that socioeconomic diversity is critical to academic excellence,” says President Jill Tiefenthaler. “When I arrived at CC five years ago, improving diversity at the college was the top priority identified in my Year of Listening. I heard this uniformly from faculty, alumni, students, staff, and parents.”

The data from the study cited in the NYT article (which includes the graduating classes from 2002-13) confirm that CC had much work to do, says Tiefenthaler.

Since that time, the college has undertaken the following initiatives:

Continuing to increase the college’s financial aid budget. Last year, CC provided $30 million in need-based financial aid to deserving students.

Through the generosity of a foundation and a fundraising challenge, raising more than $21 million in financial aid endowment, creating 56 newly endowed scholarships for first-generation college students or high-need students.

Partnering, starting in 2013, with QuestBridge, a nonprofit organization that matches high-achieving, low-income students with highly selective institutions. CC currently has 120 QuestBridge scholars across three classes; soon there will be more than 150 scholars in four classes.

Working to increase the number of students on need-based aid. However, the college also wants to ensure that those students on aid graduate with manageable debt (CC’s average graduating debt is far below the national average) and have access to all opportunities (CC has added significant funds to support study abroad and blocks away for students with financial need and to support block break programming).

Increasing funds for need-based aid — a major capital campaign goal.

While the college has made progress in improving diversity, Tiefenthaler says that there is much work still to do.

“CC is an excellent school and is highly selective. But, like many of the schools on the top of the NYT list, we have a smaller endowment and, therefore, financial aid budget than the wealthiest colleges and universities. Our challenge is to continue to build the endowment and annual support for financial aid so that we can make this wonderful education accessible to all worthy students, regardless of family background.”

You Can Help
Help CC admit more independent thinkers, creators, and trailblazers, regardless of their ability to pay, by contributing to the commitment to raise $90 million for scholarship support. Gifts of any amount make a difference.