Small college Grinnell weighs big changes to financial aid

Grinnell is a very small liberal arts college in Iowa with a very big endowment: $1.4 billion.

Grinnell is a very small liberal arts college in Iowa with a very big endowment. $1.4 billion to be exact. It's one of the wealthiest schools in the country, thanks, in part, to investment guidance from Warren Buffett, a former trustee. But even Grinnell is weighing cutbacks to control ballooning costs, joining a debate already underway at many elite private colleges.

Dr. Raynard Kington is the president of Grinnell. He's opening the conversation up to students and alumni before a decision on how to proceed will be finalized next year. Tuition, plus room and board, currently cost $50,000 per year, but many students receive financial aid.

"We have one of the lowest average debt burdens for students graduating," Kington said. The school accomplishes that through what Kington calls a "sliding scale of price." Families that can't afford the full price tag currently receive their full demonstrated need. That's college admission speak for what your family can afford, according to their analysis, plus grants and in some cases, loans.

Kington insists that Grinnell plans to stay need-blind, granting admission based on student record, without regard for their financial need. One way they may do that, increase the number of foreign students, most of whom pay full tuition.

When asked how much college could costs 10 years from now, Kington was blunt. "It will continue to cost a lot."

About the author

Sarah Gardner is a reporter on the Marketplace sustainability desk.

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