For many years, Denison has been one of the few colleges in the country that guarantees to meet the full demonstrated financial need of every student. I am pleased to announce that we are expanding our financial aid program by eliminating home equity from our determination of financial need and replacing that expectation dollar-for-dollar with free Denison-funded grant aid.
Most highly selective colleges in the country include home equity — or at least a portion of it — when they assess a student’s financial need. Conceptually, the argument for considering home equity can make sense on the surface. It is an asset that other families with similar incomes may not have, and families can borrow against that home equity to pay for college.
After significant research, we have come to the conclusion that considering home equity puts an unfair burden on middle-class families, in particular, who must either leverage their home or take out additional student loan debt to afford college. At Denison, we have and are committed to maintaining an economically diverse student body, which includes enrolling and financially supporting students from both low-income and middle-income families.
The issue of home equity in the calculation of financial need is a particularly acute issue for middle-class families in the Midwest, where we are located, and also for families in areas of the country where home prices have increased dramatically over the last few decades. Many of these families have solid, middle-class incomes, but would not be able to afford a larger mortgage or home equity loan.
It is not reasonable to expect a family to further leverage their primary residence just so that they can send their child to college. At Denison, we have decided to use our significant resources to eliminate that expectation for all of our families. We hope that this move eases the burden many students and their families face when deciding how to pay for college.
Gregory Sneed is Vice President for Enrollment Management at Denison University.