Maine Liberal Arts College Expands Financial Aid for Middle-Income Families

Colby College is using a $10 million anonymous donation to cap the amount of tuition, room, and board families making up to $200,000 will have to pay.
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Published on April 11, 2024
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  • Colby College is expanding its Fair Shot Fund thanks to an anonymous $10 million donation to cap tuition, room, and board costs for students from families making up to $200,000.
  • Students from families making $75,000 or less will pay nothing for education while students from families making $200,000 or less will pay no more than $20,000 for education.
  • Colby College formerly capped contributions at $15,000 for families making $150,000 or less.
  • Colby College is made up of 18% first-generation students and 16% Pell Grant recipients.

Colby College in Maine is expanding financial aid for middle-income families thanks to an anonymous donation.

The small liberal arts college announced an anonymous $10 million donation that will expand financial support for middle-income families and cap the amount students and families will have to pay for tuition, room, and board.

The Fair Shot Fund contributes to the Colby Commitment, a promise that parents or guardians making $75,000 or less will pay nothing for their student's education.

"While the Fair Shot Fund has been a real game-changer for many students since it launched in 2018, we've realized that there are still many families on the higher and lower ends of the middle-income spectrum who've fallen between the cracks and are left behind in terms of having access to the type of education that Colby provides," President David A. Greene said in the press release.

Colby formerly capped annual family contributions at $15,000 for families making $150,000 or less. Now, the college will cap family contributions for two more levels, making four different family contribution tiers.

Colby Commitment Tiers
Family Total Income Parent/Guardian Contribution
$0-$75,000 $0 family contribution
$75,001-$100,000 No more than $10,000 annual family contribution
$100,001 to $150,000 No more than $15,000 annual family contribution
$150,001 to $200,000 No more than $20,000 annual family contribution

"Our view is that students and their families should not think that Colby is out of their reach financially nor be discouraged by the complex process of applying for and receiving aid," said Matt Proto, vice president, and chief institutional advancement officer at Colby.

"The Fair Shot Fund is especially unique because it doesn't just cap tuition, but also includes room and board."

Colby said it has doubled its financial aid budget over the last 10 years. The college comprises 18% first-generation students and 16% Pell Grant recipients.

But Colby isn't the only Maine school students can attend tuition-free.

Last year, the state of Maine expanded its free community college initiative to include students who earn a high school diploma or equivalent in graduating 2024 and 2025 classes. The program previously only applied to those graduating between 2020 and 2023.

While many colleges focus on providing free education for students from lower-income families, more are expanding that support to students from middle-income families. Multimillion-dollar donations from alums and philanthropists spur many free education initiatives.

Last month, Ivy League Dartmouth College jumped the threshold for $0 family contribution from $65,000 to $125,000 because of a historic bequest of over $150 million from Dartmouth alum and former Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt, who died in 2014, and his wife, Barbara Britt, who died in August.

While families pay nothing, students are expected to contribute no more than $5,000 annually through summer and on-campus jobs.

Colby College and Dartmouth are among over 80 colleges and universities nationwide that grant at least free tuition to students from low-income families, undocumented students, Native American students, and more.

Most only require that students fill out the Federal Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or a state aid application and an application to the college.

Some medical and nursing schools are also expanding their financial aid. The University of Olivet offers free tuition to qualifying registered nurses to take five eight-week terms online to earn their bachelor of science in nursing. The Albert Einstein College of Medicine will give all students free tuition starting this August.