Financial Aid in one form or another is almost as old as the University. Charles Thompson 1769 received fourteen pounds from a legacy left by the widow of John Hobbs of the Philadelphia Association for the education of pious youths for the ministry. In 1792 the Corporation authorized the president to employ one of the students to ring the bell and to allow him tuition and room rent. Students from South Carolina came to the College in the 1790s with the support of Reverend Richard Furman. In the 1830s the Northern Baptist Association provided scholarship aid for students. Sometimes help was forthcoming in more unusual ways. In the days of President Francis Wayland a poor student had been living on crackers and water, and as a result, his class work began to suffer. Wayland, hearing of his situation, gave him money from his own purse and also allowed the student to take two quarts of milk a day from the president’s cow.
The first scholarships provided by the University were established in 1858. The will of Nicholas Brown 1786, who died in 1841, had instructed that half of the net income from certain properties should be made available to the University and that these funds be used, with the advice of the Warren Education Society, to aid “deserving young men in obtaining their education while members of said University.” President Wayland, who was believer in the efficacy of prizes in the cultivation of scholarship, chose to use a portion of the money, as was announced in the annual catalogue of 1842, for the award of “premiums, either in money or books, to such competitors as may by examination prove themselves most meritorious.” After a while, fewer students were competing for the premiums (in small classes they could often predict who would win, anyway), and in 1858 under President Sears the funds for the University Premiums were converted into eleven scholarships, each the income of $1000. In 1859 Reverend Horace T. Love was appointed a joint agent of Brown University and Colby College to collect subscriptions for scholarships and other objects. From his collections until 1863 and the efforts of President Sears, by the end of Sears’s administration $259,000 had been subscribed. Some students were also aided by a contribution of three hundred dollars from Seth Padelford to allow President Sears to settle of bills of students in need. In September 1860, Miss Lydia Carpenter, a member of the First Baptist Church of Pawtucket, who had been baptized by Reverend David Benedict 1806, added four thousand dollars to a thousand which she had donated to the University in 1858 to establish a fund “to be called the AID FUND, which is to be applied to help deserving students, who may need aid after their admission into Brown University.” The generic name of the fund, omitting the name of any person, was expected to encourage contributions to the fund from others. More money for scholarships was forthcoming after Congress passed a bill giving land scrip to states providing education in agriculture and the mechanical arts. The money obtained from the sale of Brown’s land in Kansas provided thirty state scholarships for Rhode Island students. In 1869 45 students were aided by scholarships and nine by the aid fund, for a total of $3270, and two students were beneficiaries of the agricultural land fund. In 1871, when tuition was raised from $50 to $75, the faculty was authorized to extend abatement of tuition amounting to $25 to up to two-fifths of the students. It was also customary to provide twenty rent-free rooms for indigent students, sons of ministers, or students for the ministry. In 1872 there were 52 scholarships available, fourteen of them assigned by the Corporation, the remainder by donors or their representatives, and in addition five students were receiving free rooms for keeping the rolls of attendance at chapel. The Rand Fund, established by a gift of one hundred dollars from Professor Albert E. Rand in 1913-14, was increased by other contributions and put at the disposal of the dean of undergraduates as an emergency loan fund for students who needed aid for a short time. A student loan fund, established in 1926-27, authorized a committee to lend annually through a local trust company up to $50,000. In its first year the system lent $33,000 to 186 students and saved the University $5,000 in scholarship aid.
In the early days of the Women’s College, delinquent bills were quietly paid by members of the Rhode Island Society for the Collegiate Education of Women. This organization established its own loan fund to help needy women students. After weathering the strain of the Depression, when students were unable to repay loans and the Society had to raise an extra $750, the Society turned its fund over to the University in 1941.
During the Second World War many members of the ROTC and V-12 units were educated at Brown at the expense of the United States government, and in the years after the war many more veterans were financed by the G. I. Bill. The federal loan program of the National Defense Education Act provided aid to students, but Brown withdrew from the program in 1961 in opposition to the requirement that a student applying for a loan sign a disclaimer affidavit stating that he did not belong to or support any association which believed in the overthrow of the government of the United States.
The aim of the financial aid program is to admit the most qualified students, regardless of their financial circumstances. Financial need is determined by a system of needs analysis developed in 1954 by the College Scholarship Service of the College Entrance Examination Board, which was later made law by Congress. A financial aid form is submitted to the College Scholarship Service, and the amount available from a student and his family is determined, and the difference needed for college expenses is made up by a package of required self-help in the form of student term-time employment and a loan, augmented if necessary by a grant or scholarship. When the Class of 1993 entered in 1989, an unexpected 38 percent of its members were awarded financial aid and accounted for an excess $1.2 million in the University budget.
Students on Financial Aid (SOFA) is an organization which evolved in 1988 from a discussion group which had been meeting regularly in the chaplain’s office. The organization aims to provide a personal support network for non-privileged students, to educate the campus about class difference, and to improve the University’s financial aid policies.