Newswise — MOUNT VERNON, Iowa - Cornell College is kicking off a new program to take a stand against college debt by committing to pay half of students’ federal loans–up to $12,000–at the time of their graduation.

This Debt Reduction Pledge will provide funding to 65 first-year students starting with those enrolling for the 2022-23 academic year. The only requirements to receive the funding are that students must graduate from Cornell in four years, live on campus, maintain good academic standing, and stay enrolled as a full-time student.

Cornell Vice President for Enrollment Management Wendy Beckemeyer, who has worked in higher education for 30 years, says this is unlike any program she’s seen before. 

“We want Cornell to be a difference-maker in higher education, and run-of-the-mill programs aren’t providing the solutions to the current problems with access and affordability,” Beckemeyer said. “The Debt Reduction Pledge is one more thing we can do to help students access a quality education and reduce debt, so our graduates can take the next steps in life with fewer financial worries.”

Here’s how it works:

  • If students take out $24,000 or more of federal loans, the college will pay up to $12,000. 
  • If students take out less than $24,000, the college will pay half of their final federal student loan bill.  
    • For example: At the time of graduation, the college would pay $4,000 for a student who has borrowed $8,000 in federal loans.

Director of Admission Drew Shradel says $12,000 is significant because it’s the maximum amount of federal loans students can borrow for their first two years.

“It’s an awesome way for students to attend college for two out of the four years, essentially debt-free,” Shradel said. “You’ll be able to focus on your studies and not have to worry about as much debt because the college is going to pick up half of your federal loans.”

Admitted students don’t need to fill out any additional complicated forms to take part in the program, just the FAFSA and a very simple Cornell form located on the website that shows their interest in the program with no detailed financial aid questions. 

The Debt Reduction Pledge works in conjunction with all of Cornell’s current financial assistance support and doesn’t impact any aid, scholarships, work-study, or other support students would receive in their financial aid package. The admission team will select the candidates for the program based on student achievement, student need (based on their FAFSA), and composition of the incoming class. 

“With this pledge, it’s very rewarding to know that more people will have access to higher education,” Beckemeyer said. “Cornell’s Debt Reduction Pledge is going to impact their lives and the lives of others. Research shows if you have a college education you are more likely to give blood, volunteer, vote, and you are more likely to have kids that do well in school, do well in math, and go to college. This is an opportunity to make a significant difference.”

Cornell has prioritized the reduction of student debt and improving financial aid modeling during the creation of its latest strategic plan, which is why this new Debt Reduction Pledge, the Cornell College Freeway Scholarship, and the Cornell College Iowa Promise Scholarship are all new initiatives. 

Students and families can contact an admission counselor or email [email protected] for more information on the Debt Reduction Pledge.

About Cornell College:

Cornell College is a liberal arts college of approximately 1,000 students in Mount Vernon, Iowa. Cornellians have been living, learning, and teaching on the block plan, One Course At A Time, since 1978. Each 18-day course can take students and professors off-campus and even out of the country due to the block’s flexibility, and students fully immerse themselves in their topic of study, taking field trips, diving into research, creating an art exhibit, or exploring issues in the local community. With students from 48 states and 18 foreign countries, as well as renowned faculty, speakers, and entertainers, Cornell offers the world from its campus.