Colby introduces “Fair Shot Fund” to support middle income families

By Sonia Lachter

On Nov. 15, Colby College announced the creation of the Fair Shot Fund for students whose families make up to $150,000 a year, typical of what is considered “middle income.”

Financed by a donation from an anonymous do- nor, the Fund is designed to “ensure that talented students from families in the middle-income brackets will have access to Colby’s extraordinary educational opportunities by capping the parent/guardian contribution at $15,000 for [middle-income] families ” according to a press release on the College’s website.

“The fund was made possible through the contribution of an alumnus who sees the challenges of the ‘middle-class squeeze,’” the post continues, “and wants to ensure that students from middle-income families aren’t deterred from pursuing an education at Colby.”

In an interview with the Echo, Vice President and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Matthew Proto reiterated the need for such a fund.

“So many of these schools have what’s called a barbell effect where there’s a lot of students who are full pay students,” Proto said, “a lot of students on the other end, and not a lot of students in between.” Comparing the Fair Shot Fund to similar funds at other institutions, Proto speculated that potential applicants might “see that different universities may have programs or they say it’s free tuition but it turns out that this fund could actually be more generous than the free tuition policies if you actually break out the numbers in terms of the cost of room and board, tuition, and other fees, so really [we’re] excited about that.”

Vice President for Communications Ruth Jackson also spoke about the Fund’s effect on potential applications in an interview with the Echo.

“The announcement was purposefully set for this time of year because we know that people are thinking about these issues right now, and we wanted to make sure that the students who were spending Thanksgiving going through their [college] lists and figuring out where to apply that this was out there for them.”

When asked about the communication strategy used to advertise this development, Jackson said that strategies being used include traditional media, particularly through higher education reporters, social media, and targeted emails to potential applicants from admissions.

“We want to make sure too that we really reach the parents with this because parents are more aware of the financial realities,” she added.

Both Jackson and Proto emphasized the need for educating potential applicants about the Fair Shot Fund as a way of rectifying perceptions about the cost of Colby’s education.

“How do we reach people who might feel like Colby’s out of reach,” Jackson posed, “because they have all kinds of perceptions about a private liberal arts colleges like this…We know that a lot of high school students look at a place like Colby and say ‘oh, I could never go there’ and that’s it. So we want to make sure that that’s not their reaction and that they understand that if they…have what it takes to do really well here that it is a place that’s possible for them.”

Proto noted Admissions’ overarching approach to getting the word out about the Fair Shot Fund, saying, “really what we know is that we have to say it over and over and over again, particularly when it’s so ingrained, and you see the cost of education skyrocketing over time, and for us just to get out in front of all students and families and say no, Colby actually could be a financial possibility for you.” Both Jackson and Proto see the Fair Shot Fund as an extension of Colby’s other financial aid policies. is includes the 2015 Colby Commitment, which ensures that the College will meet 100% of students’ demonstrated need without loans. It also includes the December 2017 commitment to a $0 parent contribution for families with an income of $60,000 or less, and efforts to make the application process accessible through the lack of an application fee and supplemental essays, as well as the test optional policy implemented in Sept. 2018.

Jackson recalled her own college application process: “When I was in high school, I grew up about 45 minutes from here,” she explained. She also reiterated the fact that despite the lack of familial money, her good grades helped her move forward. “My father happened to be a college professor, and he was like, ‘you apply wherever you want to apply, because the great places will have the financial aid to be able to offer you,’ and I was lucky, I knew that, because he worked in this business, but if my parents had been in any other eld, I might not have had that.”

Responding with her speculations as to the effect of the Fund on the College, Jackson said, “I think it’s going to make a difference in that more students will see Colby as a place that they can come to, and will apply and will come.”