Olivia Silvey ’25
President Joanne Berger-Sweeney announced Trinity College’s partnership with the Schuler Education Foundation on Sept. 14, promising to raise $60M between the College and the Foundation for scholarships and financial aid. This year, Trinity joins institutions like Barnard College, Centre College, Scripps College, and the College of the Holy Cross in this partnership titled the Schuler Access Initiative.
The $60M comes from two places: first, the Schuler Education Foundation will contribute $20M for the College to spend on financial aid over the next 10 years; second, Trinity will contribute $40M “in permanent endowment,” for both financial aid and other activities such as “academic and co-curricular programs to support the participating students.” A permanent endowment usually means that the institution—in this case, Trinity—can only spend the funds on designated items, such as said financial aid and programs.
The students who will benefit from this initiative include those will the highest financial need, those eligible for Pell grants, and undocumented students. This $60M counts towards Trinity’s current goal of fundraising $100M for financial aid, which is 20% of Trinity’s total goal of fundraising $500M for its endowment by 2025. The rest of the $500M is listed to go towards “the college’s core academic needs,” annual operating budget, athletics, and renovation for the chapel, which is currently in progress.
“This is a remarkable moment for our college as we look toward our bicentennial year,” Berger-Sweeney noted in her email announcement. “When this matching grant is completed, Trinity will become more accessible to deserving and talented students who come from families for whom affordability is a significant barrier.”
According to Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Matt Hyde, Trinity has increased their financial aid by 60% since 2015, which was a key element to being a competitive applicant in the process. In order to qualify for the Initiative, Trinity had to be able to answer “yes” to the following questions: Does your college want to substantially increase enrollment of undocumented and Pell-eligible students?; Does your college meet 80% of the calculated need for students for all four years of college?; Do Pell-eligible and undocumented students consistently graduate from my college?; Are your college’s donors interested in investing in the Schuler Access Initiative alongside the Foundation?.
The document of questions for the Initiative notes: “The SAI invests only in *incremental* enrollment of Pell-eligible and undocumented students, defined as any students in the targeted population enrolled above the school’s three-year average for the population. For example, in a school that typically enrolls 200 Pell-eligible or undocumented students on average, the 201st student and above would qualify for SAI funding.” This means that if Trinity enrolls more undocumented and/or Pell grant students than they had in the last three years, the Initiative money will be invested only in the number of students who exceed the “average.”
While Trinity has not recently published its explicit numbers regarding how much financial aid it met, according to the U.S. News & World Report, Trinity College met 100% of its students calculated financial need in 2020.
Finally, the document notes that the participating college must raise a 1:1 match for SAI funds and all donations need to be new money donations, which cannot include existing pledges, unfulfilled pledge commitments, and/or annual fund gifts. Additionally, the funds raised by college donors must be explicitly for financial aid for undocumented and Pell grant students.