DAVIDSON, N.C. — To say the COVID-19 pandemic had far-reaching impacts is an understatement at this point. From shaking up the workplace to economic hits, many ways of life have been shifted in some way.
One of those fields impacted is higher education, and it's not just with online course delivery or questions about student housing costs. With more moves being made by the U.S. federal government to tackle student debt and amidst increasing calls to cancel it entirely, the question of using loans for college continues to be considered.
But some colleges and universities are opting to answer that question by not including loans in their financial aid packages.
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CNBC profiled colleges across the country on Wednesday that have promised undergraduate students won't need to rely on loans for their education. As of writing, 22 colleges are listed as being able to fully meet students' calculated financial needs without leaning on debt.
But one of the original colleges to go that route is just a short drive north of Charlotte: Davidson College, the same school that claims NBA star Steph Curry among its alumni. College president Doug Hicks told CNBC that Davidson was the first liberal arts college in the country to go the no-loan route back in 2007, and touts that it's been beneficial in many ways.
“We’ve seen a far more diverse student body,” he said. “A student body that’s far more interesting.”
That's shown primarily in enrollment numbers; Davidson College reports student applications went up to 6,500 today from 4,500 in 2007. In turn, more applicants chose to attend Davidson after being admitted.
Hicks also said that Davidson was thinking well ahead back in 2007, and related to families who are worried about finances.
“Accessibility and affordability is the future,” Hicks told CNBC. “As a parent myself, I know that.”
The college reports that more than 50% of students get need-based aid and offers financial aid with combinations of scholarships, grants, and work-study programs. Students can still opt to borrow educational loans if they choose.
Davidson College going no-loan was just the first major move it made; in March 2020, college leaders started a pilot program to eliminate the need for admissions exams like the SAT and ACT, eventually doing away with the requirement in April 2022.
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