Boston College ranks among the top 30 private, nonprofit colleges and universities that are the most generous to their financially neediest students, according to a recent study published in The Chronicle of Higher Education.
In its assessment of 958 four-year private, nonprofit institutions—from high-profile universities such as Duke, Stanford, Princeton, Harvard, and Yale to lesser-known institutions like Southern New Hampshire University, Central Baptist College (Ark.), and Wilberforce University (Ohio)—CHE examined the average net price of attending each school for students from five family income groups.
CHE also calculated the difference in each net price between the lowest and highest income groups, and how many times greater the average net price was for the highest versus lowest income groups. CHE determined the average net price by subtracting the average amount of federal, state, and local government aid, and institutional grant and scholarship aid, from the total cost of attendance for each institution.
Using this methodology, the CHE study found BC was 26th in generosity to financially neediest students. The average net price for students from the lowest income group attending BC was $7,251 and $9,693 for the second-lowest income group.
Duke ranked first in the study. Other institutions surveyed included Tufts (12th), Georgetown (19th), Northeastern (51st), Notre Dame (56th), Holy Cross (59th), and Boston University (74th).
“Higher education institutions have often been regarded as ‘engines of social mobility,’ providing students of limited means with the tools that enable them to achieve success. This is the philosophy that guides our enrollment and financial aid practices: We want to ensure that a BC education is accessible to the very best students, regardless of their socioeconomic backgrounds.”
The study underscores what Boston College admission and financial aid administrators have been saying for years: Students from low-income families should not shy away from attending private, selective four-year institutions like BC because of the cost.
As a need-blind university that meets the full-demonstrated need of all undergraduates, administrators say, BC is committed to providing access to students from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds, and ensuring they have the resources and support services that enable them to finish their degrees.
“Prestigious colleges and universities like Boston College are often perceived as ‘out of reach,’ but most have the resources to make education a reality for qualified students of all backgrounds,” says Vice Provost for Enrollment Management John Mahoney. “Higher education institutions have often been regarded as ‘engines of social mobility,’ providing students of limited means with the tools that enable them to achieve success. This is the philosophy that guides our enrollment and financial aid practices: We want to ensure that a BC education is accessible to the very best students, regardless of their socioeconomic backgrounds.”
“The strongest message that we send is, ‘If you can do the work, you’ll be able to attend,’” says Director of Student Financial Strategies and Enrollment Bernard Pekala. “We say, ‘Take a chance and apply. We’ll do our part.’”
“Do our part,” Mahoney and Pekala explain, means not only attracting students from low-income families to BC, but keeping them here—an aspect of generosity not easily quantified in statistical studies. Resources like the Montserrat Office and the Learning to Learn program play a valuable role in helping students with the highest levels of financial need to get the most out of their life at BC, inside and outside of the classroom.
Pekala endorses the importance of Admitted Eagle and Eagle for a Day programs, particularly the Keith A. Francis AHANA Weekend, which allows students to meet with financial aid professionals who will continue to work with them once they have enrolled.
“Our financial aid staff look to build relationships with students as soon as they’re accepted. We know they’ll have questions not just about financial aid for the academic year, but things like Junior Year Abroad or summer courses. We want them to feel they can fully participate in the BC experience.”
Mahoney says that fostering an economically diverse student body is not an act of noblesse oblige: “Diversity in any form enriches the Boston College community. We believe it is vital to have people of many different perspectives and backgrounds as part of the University, creating an atmosphere in which we can learn from one another and broaden our perception of the world.”
BC has been successful in retaining as well as enrolling low-income students, note Mahoney and Pekala, citing the University’s 91 percent graduation rate for Pell Grant recipients, who are typically the most financially needy students. The overall graduation rate for BC is 92 percent.
“We continue to explore ways to improve our outreach to and support of students from the lowest income groups,” says Mahoney. “But the Chronicle of Higher Education study helps reinforce the message that families should not ignore BC because of sticker shock.”
The study is on the Chronicle of Higher Education website.
Sean Smith | University Communications | February 2020