Keeping our promise

More than 7,000 donors came together to support The Brown Promise— permanently removing loans from all undergraduate, University-packaged financial aid awards.

Susan Buffum graduated from Brown in 1974. Waylon Jin graduated in 2019. Although they came to College Hill at different times, with different life experiences, both agree that supporting financial aid is one of the most important things donors to the University can do.

“Financial aid is one of the key ingredients at Brown,” says Buffum. “I think it resonates with people for a lot of the same reasons. I loved Brown. I look back on my four years, still, as the best four years of my life, because it was such a transformative experience. To think that people can’t have that opportunity because it’s out of reach financially is just horrible.”

Over the course of the BrownTogether campaign, which kicked off in 2015, scores of alumni, parents, and friends have felt the same way. 

The most recent success story has been The Brown Promise. In September 2017, President Christina H. Paxson announced a plan to remove loans from all undergraduate, University-packaged financial aid awards. One of the main goals of this initiative was to expand access to a Brown education for students from moderate-income families and further diversify the student body. 

“Brown is built on a diversity of perspectives,” says Jin, who gave to The Brown Promise in 2018 and 2019, while still a student. “Most of what I enjoyed about Brown was the learning I took away from my relationships with classmates, and having more diverse classmates only enriches that.”

By the beginning of the 2018-19 academic year, approximately $30 million had been raised to jumpstart the program. This month, the University announced that it had surpassed its goal of $120 million, the amount needed to make The Brown Promise a permanent part of Brown’s financial aid program.

The immediate impact of The Brown Promise

The Brown Promise builds on almost 20 years of action taken to make Brown more affordable and accessible, starting with the move to need-blind admission for domestic applicants in 2003. Five years later, the University eliminated parent contributions for families making less than $60,000 per year and removed loans from financial aid packages of students whose families earn less than $100,000 per year. The Brown Promise was the next step to ensure that a wider cross-section of exceptional students could choose to attend, regardless of their financial constraints.

“I think people are realizing that there were real limitations in the past to having very qualified students attend Brown,” says Buffum, who has directed her giving to financial aid for more than four decades. “The only way you get people to move up the economic ladder is education, and if you deny that opportunity to a group of students at high-level institutions, you’re just perpetuating the issue.”

The impact of giving to financial aid programs in general, and The Brown Promise in particular, has been both rapid and inspiring. The University has seen a more than 43% increase in application volume, a 57% drop in personal borrowing, and a 15% increase in students from moderate-income families choosing to matriculate at Brown.

Brown icon of stacks of coins decreasing in height from left to right.

57 %


in personal borrowing

43 %


in application volume

15 %

matriculation increase

in students from moderate-income families

“When I was applying to Brown, my family was a little hesitant because they thought, ‘Are we going to be able to afford this?’” says Ayla Kim ’25, who is currently benefiting from The Brown Promise. “Brown has world-renowned faculty, amazing departments, and an outstanding learning environment. I just feel thankful that I’m able to afford to go to a place like this and it won’t eat away at my family’s finances.”

Kim, who is considering a concentration in economics and behavioral decision sciences, has taken advantage of Brown’s Open Curriculum to explore her interests and received additional financial support to participate in a remote internship with an educational organization in the San Diego area.

“I definitely feel less stressed in terms of choosing a career path,” she says. “I think having that reduced financial burden after college allows me to enjoy college and what comes after it without feeling the responsibility to get a lucrative job where I might have to work 12, 14 hours a day just to recoup my losses from paying for school. It feels very liberating and empowering.”

Brown has world-renowned faculty, amazing departments, and an outstanding learning environment. I just feel thankful that I’m able to afford to go to a place like this and it won’t eat away at my family’s finances.

Ayla Kim ’25 Brown Promise recipient
Ayla Kim ’25 poses outside a brick building on Brown's campus

Creating a culture of giving

As the BrownTogether campaign moves toward its completion in December 2024, the University is still engaged in raising scholarship funding for both domestic and international students, and donors can still contribute to the Brown Promise endowment. The ongoing collaboration of the Brown community worldwide will help ensure that future generations will have the most transformative experiences possible on College Hill.

“I have been motivated to give because I know that every dollar counts,” says Jin. “I can see that supporting loan removal and financial aid makes students’ lives easier and allows them to focus on what makes them happy.”

And when happy students become successful alumni, Buffum says, the cycle of giving is strengthened.   

“As more students benefit from Brown scholarships and then start earning money in their lives after graduation, this is something that they will want to perpetuate.”

Support the next generation of leaders.

Help make a Brown education possible for all deserving students, regardless of their socioeconomic background. Explore the many ways you can support financial aid at Brown.