Presidential Commission on Financial Aid

In May 2020, President Hanlon launched the Presidential Commission on Financial Aid. What follows is a summary of the Commission's year one report, which was presented to the president in October 2021 and published in February 2022.

Where We Started


Dartmouth Building

While Dartmouth's current Financial Aid program is robust and an asset to the College, we must ensure adequate resources are available to sustain and enhance the current student community, and attract and retain the next generation of adaptable leaders regardless of their financial circumstances. Expanding support for Financial Aid must be among Dartmouth's highest priorities, because the more inclusive society we must become tomorrow will be led by the students we educate today.

Formation of the Commission

On May 14, 2020, facing the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis, President Hanlon outlined a plan to benefit all students across the institution. The plan included several new goals:

  • Expand the family-income threshold for a full-tuition undergraduate scholarship to $125,000
  • Create a special scholarship bridge fund
  • Increase Dartmouth's endowed scholarships while also providing renewed emphasis on annual giving

President Hanlon also announced the establishment of the Presidential Commission on Financial Aid (PCFA) to undertake a 24-month study of financial aid in higher education as an agent of opportunity and social mobility.

The Commission's Mandate

President Hanlon charged the PCFA with taking a deep dive into Dartmouth's undergraduate Financial Aid programs, focusing on four key areas: 

  • Envision Dartmouth's student body of the future to project the resources necessary to attract and support our students.
  • Support current fundraising efforts in The Call to Lead campaign to secure the remaining ~$200 million in endowed scholarship funds to sustain and perpetuate Dartmouth's thriving community.
  • Educate the Dartmouth community about Financial Aid and its impact on both student/family recipients and the entire Dartmouth community.
  • Enhance Dartmouth's story around the transformative power of higher education and how Financial Aid promotes and enables it. 

What We Learned

The following statements distill a wide range of gathered insights.

1. We all — all alumni and all students — received financial assistance.

The cost of the Dartmouth experience does and will always far exceed full tuition.


Funding Sources of Cost Per Student

2. Financial Aid allows students from all socioeconomic, geographic, and ethnic backgrounds to access Dartmouth and creates a learning experience benefitting all students.

3. Affordability allows us to attract the most talented students, regardless of their background.


Student Body by Income

4. Dartmouth lags behind some of our peer schools in both the level of financial support provided and the extent of non-financial support programs that allow all students to fully realize the "Dartmouth experience."


Ivy Financial Aid Endowments Comparison

5. Financial Aid (and its supporting cast of student services) must ensure each student feels and becomes a vital, valued member of the Dartmouth community.

6. We need to unite and repair, and we all must be open to truth-finding, understanding, and reconciliation.

Where We Should Go

Although our work is not complete, the Commission has made the following key recommendations for Dartmouth and Financial Aid going forward:

Key Recommendations

1. Financial Aid must be the highest priority for fundraising development efforts at Dartmouth.

2. We must "preserve, protect, and defend" Dartmouth's need blind admissions policy and ability to meet a student's full demonstrated financial need.

3. We should replace student loans with endowed scholarships. Eliminating student loans from Dartmouth's Financial Aid packages ensures greater economic equity, and also secures competitive parity with our peers.

4. We must institute need blind admissions for international students. As of January 2022, we are now one of only six US institutions to offer need blind admission to all students.


Students at Dartmouth

Additional Observations

In addition to the above key recommendations, the PCFA also developed strong points of view on related issues that emerged, which merit further study as our work continues in the coming year.

1. Expand student support services. Dartmouth should increase student services comprehensively, so all students, regardless of family income or background, thrive on campus and beyond. This would help foster an inclusive and equitable environment for all students through the three stages of a Dartmouth experience. With the newly formed First-Generation office and the successful expansion of the four-week FYSEP program, we recommend continuing supporting these students throughout their Dartmouth experience and as they prepare to launch beyond Dartmouth.

2. Increase messaging and education around how ALL Dartmouth students receive financial aid. We should expand the traditional definition of Financial Aid to one that fully encompasses the structural financial support that all matriculated students receive.

3. Consider making Dartmouth bigger. Increasing Dartmouth's enrollment would achieve more inclusiveness, equity, and access to its incredible educational experience. At present, with historically low admission rates and high matriculation yields, Dartmouth has become even more exclusive, turning away scores of inspiring and comprehensively qualified applicants of all backgrounds and nationalities. Financial Aid would play a key role in this effort.

Next Steps for Year Two

WITH OUR FRAMEWORK of Financial Aid as the "key" — to bringing talent to campus, expanding community engagement for all students while at Dartmouth, and promoting leadership development for a successful launch from college — this is a pivotal moment for the College community to truly support, promote, and embrace the power of Financial Aid for everyone. As we enter our Year Two "public phase," the PCFA has pivoted to the following focuses to drive full engagement:


  • Outline robust student services program (FYSEP/MYSEP/LYSEP)
  • Generate 30-year undergraduate enrollment model for the highest student body ambitions to determine Financial Aid requirements
  • Open the related conversation about potential enrollment increase


  • Elevate Financial Aid as a top fundraising priority at Dartmouth
  • Help reach the $500M Financial Aid goal in The Call to Lead Campaign
  • Establish a strong foundation for ongoing Financial Aid fundraising annually
  • Work with all PCFA members to build the pipeline of potential donors, raise awareness about specific giving opportunities, engage with prospects and express gratitude


  • Simplify and energize descriptions of key findings and initiatives
  • Generate innovative, compelling content, engaging DALI Lab
  • Craft commissioners' personal stories into ambassador messages
  • Drive community engagement to embed Financial Aid into a core philanthropic culture