Pell Grants are designed to help families with demonstrated financial need pay college bills. But the maximum annual grant, set at $6,895, falls well short of what U-Md. charges for in-state tuition and fees this school year: $11,232. The Terrapin Commitment would seek to fill in gaps of unmet need after scholarships, grants and family contributions.
U-Md. officials described it as the largest single-year investment in need-based scholarships in the university’s history.
“We don’t want any of our students who are from certain socioeconomic backgrounds who are Pell-eligible to really carry any loans or any debt going forward,” U-Md. President Darryll J. Pines said in an interview. He said he hopes the program will enable students to “come to school, have minimal work-study if possible, and simply just be able to focus on their education, and do well and take the next step for their families.”
The university said about 4,700 full-time students could benefit from the program.
Federal data show that U-Md. has about 31,000 undergraduates, 74 percent of them Maryland residents. Including out-of-state students, about 5,400 U-Md. undergraduates receive Pell Grants.
Tuition and fees are not the only expense families face. There are also charges for housing and meals, estimated this year at $14,576, as well as expenses for books, travel and other items.
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The fine print of the Terrapin Commitment indicates that eligible students could receive significant help with those expenses. “After covering tuition and fees, we will cover 50% of remaining unmet need, before loans, up to the cost of room and board,” the university said on its website about the program. But the funding wouldn’t necessarily cover all the bills.
“We are reducing the gap between cost and aid and reducing the number of students with unmet need,” the university said.
“What a great time to be a #Terp,” Jay A. Perman, chancellor of the University System of Maryland, wrote in a tweet cheering the program.
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Many prominent public universities offer financial aid, but the extent varies from state to state. The University of Virginia pledges to meet the full need of its students through scholarships, grants, work-study and need-based loans. The loans in U-Va. packages for in-state students range from $1,000 to $4,500 a year.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill markets its aid as the “Carolina Covenant,” which aims to cover full need for eligible students, from in state and out of state, through grants, scholarships and work-study.
The University of Michigan offers what it calls the “Go Blue Guarantee,” providing full tuition to Michigan residents whose families earn up to $65,000 a year and have modest assets.
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The Terrapin Commitment aims to join such efforts to draw students from diverse backgrounds. “Education is sort of the great equalizer that gives people opportunity,” Pines said.
Pines, who has led U-Md. since 2020, has been pushing measures to increase access and affordability for Maryland students. He want to raise the number of students who transfer to U-Md. The university also recently shifted to the online Common Application in an effort to draw the interest of more prospective students. The Common App, as it is known, is a portal for applying to hundreds of colleges and universities.
U-Md.’s announced funding for the Terrapin Commitment, up to $20 million, represents about half of the $39.7 million the university has recently disclosed in annual need-based institutional aid and donor-funded scholarships.
The $20 million will represent new funding, the university said, on top of current levels.
“I’ve heard from numerous students who are really thankful to President Pines and to the Provost for recognizing this need and creating an opportunity and building the programs that currently exists to really help students with financial needs [to] afford coming to the university,” said Ayelette Halbfinger, U-Md.’s student body president and a senior finance and operations management and business analytics major. “We’re thankful they’re recognizing the current lack of support that these communities, these students have and doing something to really help bolster and build up the current financial support opportunities that the university offers.”