2/05/2010 Libby Sternberg

The Faces of Financial Aid

New initiatives will increase the access to an F&M education

For decades, the financial aid provided by F&M has changed the lives of students looking for an educational opportunity they did not think possible. It has transformed farmers' children into leading physicians, small-town kids into international executives and tentative young men and women into confident entrepreneurs.

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Franklin & Marshall is furthering that commitment to the transformative nature of financial aid with a bold new strategy to substantially increase the amount of need-based financial aid available to students.

The reasoning is simple: The College wants to make an F&M education more accessible and affordable to the most-qualified students, regardless of their families' financial circumstances.

This focus is in keeping with the College's commitment to making available the gift of its great liberal arts education to all qualified students and to providing society with informed, engaged global citizens who are working to improve the world around them.

"This is absolutely the right thing to do, both from a competitive standpoint and also a social-justice perspective," explains F&M President John Fry.

The College already has taken the first step in implementing its new strategy by allocating an additional $2 million to need-based financial aid for 2008-09.

In fall 2009, the College started work on raising $1 million a year in current-use funds to provide need-based financial aid. These gifts will enable 40 to 50 additional students per year with demonstrated need to attend the College.

The cornerstone of raising the $1 million is asking alumni and friends of the College to establish a four-year term scholarship at $10,000 a year. Each annual gift would be spent during the fiscal year on need-based aid. Donors would be introduced to an incoming student whom they would support, mentor and communicate with through graduation.

The long-term strategy is for the College to embark on a comprehensive campaign with financial aid as the top priority. The College would hope to raise between $50 and $75 million in the upcoming campaign for permanent endowment dedicated to financial aid.

But providing this additional aid, whether in current-use funds or restricted endowment, is more than an ethical imperative. Just as financial aid is a lifeline to financially struggling students, it is a lifeline to the College's long-term health and success.

Expanding financial aid will make F&M a more competitive institution. Peer and aspirant institutions have larger endowed scholarship funds that enable them to lure the best students to their doors, and premier liberal arts colleges award nearly all of their financial aid based on need.

But it is a mistake to think this initiative is aimed only at attracting students from lower-income families. In reality, the College will be attracting the most-qualified students from across the socio-economic spectrum.

"Students who are the most discerning are going to ask questions about diversity and competitiveness," Fry says. "They want a rich experience, and part of that is the ability to interact with students who come from different experiences and traditions. The best students want to see diversity in all formsethnic, cultural, socioeconomic."

At this point F&M still must look at a family's financial circumstances when reviewing applications.

Only a small percentage of the College's financial aid budgetless than 20 percent comes from endowed funds. At peer colleges, up to 40 percent of financial aid is supplied through endowments. "We would love to see F&M move to 50 percent of financial aid coming from a restricted endowment," Fry says.

An endowed fund allows the College to protect in perpetuity its commitment to enrolling the most-qualified students.

Under its new financial aid strategy, F&M has eliminated fixed grants, which met a student's need for the first year but did not adjust aid as costs rose; increased the amount distributed for expenses such as books and supplies; and admitted and enrolled more students qualifying for aid based on need.

Ultimately the College would move to an admission process that is "blind" to financial need, seeing only the qualifications of each student.

"We want to be in a position where all we need to do is read the applications and decide who is right for F&M on the merits alone, not worrying about the financial need of the applicant," Fry says of this last goal. "It's a heartbreaking moment not only for the student, but for the College, when we have to turn away a qualified student for financial reasons who would be a great fit otherwise."

Finding a college that is a great fit also changes lives. Just ask the alumni who received financial aid, achieved success in their respective fields and changed other lives for the better, just as their lives were improved by the F&M experience.

While their stories might be typical, they are far from ordinary.

F&M Opened Their World

The Sharrar brothers came from humble beginnings, the eighth and ninth of a family of 10 children living in Altoona, Pa.

When the identical twins were in sixth grade, their father, a railroad employee, died. Their mother went to work, holding a variety of different jobs, from housekeeper to waitress, while older brothers also found work to keep the family afloat.

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Despite their lack of financial means, the brothers never doubted they would continue their education after high school.

"Bob and I grew up always knowing we were going to college," Bill says, even though none of their older siblings was a college graduate.

They were equally sure what college that would be Pennsylvania State University. Its main campus was 40 miles away, and its Altoona campus was in town.

"We didn't have a whole lot of options, to be honest," Bob says.

That changed, however, with a chance meeting. "We were very active in a lot of things in high school," Bill explains. "And the principal used to go to the Kiwanis club once a month, taking a student with him."

"He took us as examples of students who were doing well," Bob says.

"And I said I wanted to be a physician," Bill continues.

That caught the attention of an attendee, J. Floyd Buzzard, M.D.,'14, an ophthalmologist who strongly encouraged Bill to go to F&M.

"Dr. Buzzard came up and told Bill F&M was a great pre-med school," recalls Bob, whose own interest was in business.

This fortuitous meeting resulted in both brothers' applying to a college they had never considered within reach. Financial aid made it possible for them to attend.

"We received free tuition and worked on campus for room and board," Bob recalls. "We both worked in the library. Without the scholarships, we wouldn't have been able to go to Franklin & Marshall."

While Bill stayed true to his original dream of becoming a doctor, Bob veered away from business his junior year. He liked chemistry but didn't want to spend his life in the lab, so he decided to go pre-med like his brother. The pair went on to the University of Pennsylvania Medical School.

While the twins ended up as physicians, their paths diverged when they chose specialties. Bill became a pediatrician, Bob an epidemiologist. They traveled halfway around the world when they were youngBill served in the Peace Corps in Somalia, while Bob studied the effects of parasitic infections on children in West Pakistan.

Their return to the United States found them embarking on careers that would contribute to the care of both individual patients and whole populations. Bill eventually became chief of pediatrics at the Children's Regional Hospital at Cooper in Camden, N.J. His service in the Peace Corps and his commitment to the health of children through pediatrics are sources of pride for him.

Bob's path took him to the Centers for Disease Control and then back to Philadelphia's Department of Public Health. He was part of the team of medical detectives who investigated the outbreak of a mysterious illness afflicting attendees of an American Legion conference in Philadelphia in 1976. The team's investigation led to the discovery of the Legionella Pneumophila bacterium, the cause of what became known as Legionnaires Disease.

His medical search also took him into surveillance of AIDS cases when the epidemic began in 1981, helping educate the public on the disease's transmittal. He takes great pride in his work to immunize children against vaccine-preventable diseases.

Both brothers married and had families, and now these world travelers live within five miles of each other in Philadelphia.

"Coming from a small town like Altoona, F&M opened the world for us," Bob says.

"We All Depend on Each Other to Succeed"

Raised on New York's Long Island, Ray Sanseverino went to Uniondale High School, where he played football and wrestled and admits he was "more interested in athletics than academics."

He, his mother and sister made up a tight family of limited financial means. His mother worked as a secretary, and his sister left high school after her junior year so she could help support the family of three.

Sanseverino dreamed of college and listened when a classmate told him about Franklin & Marshall, which had a terrific wrestling program. When F&M's football and wrestling coaches visited Uniondale, they watched Sanseverino wrestle and contacted him about coming to the College.

He applied and was accepted, but F&M could not offer an athletic scholarship. The coach helped him figure out how to make the finances work. Sanseverino was awarded a partial scholarship and student loan, and worked on campus.

"My first year, I had a job in food service. I had breakfast duty, which is probably the worst because you had to get up so early," Sanseverino recalls. "After my freshman year, I worked in the gym, in the equipment room, doing laundry. That covered the cost of books."

Living in a fraternity house, he became steward, which paid for his room and provided a "great experience" because of the managerial skills he acquired running the food operation, planning menus and hiring people.  He also served as one of six waiters serving other members of the house, which paid for his board.

He was able to play football all four years, but did not wrestle after his freshman year, a regret he carries to this day. With three jobs, he could not do everything.

He entered college as an athlete, but in his junior year, a business law course lit the fuse to another interest: law. It was a passion he followed after F&M, graduating third in his class, from Fordham University's School of Law, cum laude, in 1972.

Now a partner at Loeb & Loeb LLP in New York, he chairs its commercial real estate department and has handled some of the largest and most significant real estate transactions in the United States. Last year he handled a transaction that gained national attention representing a tenant leasing space in Chicago's Sears Tower, which, as a result of this transaction, was renamed the Willis Tower after Sanseverino's client, The Willis Group.

Although he is proud of many accomplishments, including receiving the College's Alumni Citation and being elected to its Board of Trustees, "the one thing that stands out above anything else is the fact that I could send both my adult daughters to private colleges without their having to worry about tuition or room and board," he says.

His eldest daughter went to Boston College, while his middle one attended Georgetown University. He told them, "Your job is to get good grades," while he took care of the rest. Their mother, Sanseverino's first wife, was tragically killed in an automobile accident when the girls were young. Sanseverino and his wife of almost eight years, Kimber, have a 2-year-old daughter, Sophia, for whom they have established a college fund.

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Sanseverino has always been grateful to the alumni who contributed to F&M, making his education possible. In 2000, he decided to return the favor by endowing the Raymond A. Sanseverino Scholarship Fund.

The first recipient was Tiffanie Gonzalez '09"a wonderful young lady from the Bronx," Sanseverino says. When she called to thank him for the scholarship, Sanseverino invited her to lunch in Manhattan. She arrived with her father, who just wanted to meet Sanseverino and thank him in person for the scholarship.

"Seeing his reaction," Sanseverino recalls, "confirmed the significance of what I had done." During her four years at F&M, Sanseverino and Gonzalez saw each other several times a year. They still stay in touch.

At F&M's Commencement in 2009, Sanseverino was there and thrilled to see her graduate. "I think I've gotten more out of it than she did," he says. Gonzalez now works for a social service agency, going into homes and interviewing women who might be victims of domestic abuse.

"Not to give back," Sanseverino reflects, "is to ignore that we all depend on each other to succeed."

Continuing the Legacy

Today's students continue to benefit from the financial aid that enabled the Sharrars, Sanseverino and Gonzalez to receive an F&M education and help them improve the lives of others.

Sixty percent of Franklin & Marshall's students received financial aid this year, and about 40 percent have at least half of their tuition covered by all sources of aid.

They are students like Ashley Munz '11, who knew from her first visit that F&M was the place for her. She wanted to attend a small college not far from her Haddon Township, N.J., home.

Before Munz applied to college, her parents sat her down and made sure she understood the reality of coming out not only with a degree, but also with student-loan debt. That didn't deter her from applying to F&M.

Now a junior double-majoring in government and business, she says the first two years were definitely a financial struggle for her family. But then she received word her scholarships and grants were increasing, and that she was the recipient of the Norman and Frances Werthwein Scholarship awarded to business students who demonstrate financial need.

"As soon as I got the e-mail about that, I called my parents. They were so excited," she says. "It was a big relief."

She has yet to meet the donors who fund her scholarship, but when she does, she will shower them with gratitude. "Knowing there are alumni out there who care, it's a really good feeling," she says.

Munz says her F&M experience has been all that she wished forand all any college student could wish for. She is captain of the rugby team, a house assistant, a student researcher, and played flute in the symphonic wind ensemble and orchestra her first year.

"The relationships you're able to form with professors here are exceptional," she says. "Talking with my friends at other schools, I've found they don't have those same relationships. That's what makes F&M stand out."

This new financial aid initiative will enable the College to continue to open its doors to the most-qualified studentsthose who will elevate the quality of intellectual life on campus and the caliber of work done in classroom and laboratories.

"The best institutions in the country, who field the most talented and diverse student bodies, are the ones that don't have to worry about whether applicants can afford the college," Fry says.

To read more stories about alumni and students who have been helped by financial aid, go to www.fandm.edu/the-impact-of-your-gifts.
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