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Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Brown Programs Fill Gap for Books, Food

Some college students with limited funds are forced into a no-win choice: buy course materials or buy food. Some don’t have the money for either. Two new programs at Brown University aim to resolve that dilemma for the lowest-income students.

Up to now, noted a report in University Business, students on financial aid were expected to pick up meal costs out of earnings from work-study or summer jobs. However, a working group exploring why some students couldn’t afford to buy their textbooks found that these jobs sometimes didn’t pay enough to cover both food and books.

Starting with the 2018-19 academic year, Brown will expand the amount of aid provided to undergraduate students whose parents earn less than $60,000 and are unable to contribute anything toward their university expenses. In addition to tuition, fees, and housing, the aid package will now include a full meal plan, ensuring students have access to 20 meals per week.

Also, the institution will try out a separate program to pay for course materials for students who have a zero-dollar parent contribution. Students will use a special swipe card to purchase course materials. Only first-year students will be eligible to participate in the pilot for 2018-19, but if it’s successful, Brown hopes to offer the program to all needy students the following year.

“We’ve found that some students are selecting courses based on how much books cost. Our goal is to ensure that no student feels compelled to make educational choices based on finances,” said Vernicia Elie, an assistant dean who was part of the working group.

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