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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Financial aid prioritized in raising gifts, donations

Published: February 27, 2009
Section: News

Senior Vice President of Institutional Advancement Nancy Winship said that the Department of Development and Alumni Relations will be refocusing its gift soliciting strategies on financial aid for undergraduate students.

Shifting focus to financial aid will lessen the stress on the university’s $80 million operating deficit over the next five years. Financial aid is part of the school’s operating budget.

Winship, however, attributed the shift in focus not to the university’s economic crisis, but to the nation’s, saying that it has increased the need for financial aid in for the comming years.

With 75 percent of the student body receiving need-based financial aid before the nation’s economy took a turn for the worst in September, Winship said focusing on raising need-based aid money is “a no-brainer.”

“This is not a pre-emptive measure,” she said. “There are more students who need help. Their parents have lost their jobs, their incomes have decreased and their savings are worth less. Helping them stay here is our priority.”

Donors and alumni have always been asked if they would like to donate money for financial aid; however, that choice was presented alongside a variety of opportunities to donate to the university, including funding building projects, academic programs and faculty chairs. While donating to other projects is still on the table for interested donors, Winship said, her department is now suggesting donations toward financial aid “first and foremost.”

While donating money for buildings and faculty chairs can seem more glamorous to donors looking to have their donations recognized with namings, Winship said that “it’s actually easy to make a compelling argument for financial aid donations, especially to alumni.”

Winship added that donors should see financial aid donations as “giving young people access to tools that will help them for their whole lives.”

So many of our alumni came here on scholarships that were made possible by people who, like them now, had the means and wanted to give students an education.”

The Department of Development and Alumni Relations is concentrating on need-based financial aid, and its newfound focus does not affect merit aid, Winship said.

With the nation’s economic troubles not looking up anytime soon, Winship said that she hopes that this new initiative will not only help students in need of aid for the coming academic year, but will also build up a financial aid endowment for the future.

Winship said that it will be impossible to gauge how successful her department’s efforts to raise financial aid have been until June 30, when the university will know how many students will need the aid, and how much they will need.

But, she said, failure is not an option.

“We’re a university, the most important thing is that students stay here and get the education that they deserve,” Winship said. “We simply must be successful in this endeavor.”