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Lawrence University working to become a “full-need” institution

Four years after embarking on an ambitious plan to become a “full-need” institution, one that provides financial aid to cover all tuition and fees for admitted students with demonstrated financial need, Lawrence University is closing in on achieving this goal – joining some of the nation’s elite colleges and universities. Only 65 universities nationwide are designated full-need institutions.

Under a campaign dubbed “Full Speed to Full Need,” Lawrence President Mark Burstein set out to raise $85 million in endowed scholarship funds in five years, an amount estimated to meet the “full-need” commitment. Fueled by an anonymous $25 million gift, $75.1 million has been raised in just four years. Campus officials are optimistic the $85 million goal will be met sometime next year.

The campaign’s success has produced tangible results. When it was launched, 74 percent of Lawrence students receiving financial aid had an average funding gap of $6,000 in their awards. During the 2017-18 academic year, students with a funding gap had dropped to 48 percent with an average gap of $4,200.

“We’re really trying to help every student on this campus and especially the families that have the largest gap,” President Burstein told Inside Higher Ed, which published a recent feature story about the initiative; “This [commitment] resonated with the Lawrence community and our values. We’ve been historically a place where students of need come for a transformative educational experience.”

Though not an initial priority for President Burstein when he assumed the presidency, an open office conversation with a student who was working 40 hours a week and had amassed $30,000 in debt proved eye opening. The president wondered how many other students faced similar challenges because Lawrence could not afford to help them.

“It started to make real for me what it means not to be a full-need university, not to support these students,” he said.