Duke will cover tuition for Carolina students from low- and middle-income households


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Dive Brief:

  • Beginning in fall 2023, Duke University will cover the tuition of undergraduate students from North Carolina and South Carolina whose families earn $150,000 or less a year. This includes students from military families whose legal residence is in the Carolinas, regardless of where they are stationed.
  • The private nonprofit university in North Carolina will also provide financial assistance to cover housing, food and other expenses for residents of the two states whose households make $65,000 or less annually.
  • Around 340 of Duke’s more than 6,500 undergraduates are expected to receive roughly $2 million in grant assistance, according to a Tuesday news release. Duke said it expects the number of eligible students to rise over the next five years, increasing the program’s price tag by $6 million to $7 million each year.

Dive Insight:

Sticker price, or advertised cost, for undergraduate tuition at Duke is just over $60,000. In the 2020-21 academic year, a majority of students, 54%, received an average of $46,726 in grant or scholarship aid, according to federal data.

The university’s new initiative aims to bridge the remaining aid gap, specifically allowing students from the lowest income backgrounds to attend “without the need for student loans.”

But such programs are expensive and can only be implemented and maintained by wealthy colleges. Williams College, a private nonprofit college in Massachusetts, discontinued its “no-loan” student aid policy in 2010, after a sharp drop in its endowment.

“We know that students with greater financial constraints are more likely to choose colleges that are closer to their homes, and that many of those students will also choose to stay closer to home after they graduate,” Gary Bennett, dean of Duke’s arts and sciences college, said in a statement. The arts and sciences college admits 4 in 5 of undergraduates students at Duke.

“Retaining talent is critical to our region’s success; Duke’s commitment to these students is also a commitment to the North and South Carolina communities they call home,” he said. The next round of financial aid statements, out by July 1, will reflect the new assistance.

Duke isn’t the first university to announce a “no-loan” aid program for this fall.

William & Mary, a public institution in Virginia, announced in September that it would cover tuition and fees for in-state undergraduate students who are eligible for federal Pell Grants. The initiative, set to begin in fall 2023, is intended to increase enrollment of students who haven’t traditionally attended college.


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