A walker passes near an archway at Colby College in Waterville. The college announced a gift of $2.8 million from an anonymous donor dedicated to financial aid for students from Maine. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel file Buy this Photo

Colby College announced Thursday that the school received an anonymous donation of $2.8 million to be put toward financial aid for Maine students.

The anonymous donation comes from a couple who have previously donated to the college. One of the donors is a Maine native, and the couple have been seasonal Maine residents for almost 40 years. One of the two is a Colby alum and both are Colby parents.

The couple has supported the school for “decades” and has served in volunteer roles as well as having donated financially. They have had a family connection with the college for nearly 100 years.

The money will be added to a financial aid fund previously established by the couple, now totaling more than $5 million for financial aid for in-state students.

“Financial aid made my years at Colby possible, years that have shaped my entire life,” one donor said in a press release. “It means so much to us to pay it forward for the next generation of Maine students on Mayflower Hill. They are exceptionally talented with so many opportunities ahead of them.”

Financial aid and ensuring that higher education is accessible is a major effort at Colby, and the school has committed to meet students’ financial needs without loans.

If a student’s total family income is $65,000 or less — the median household income in the U.S. — the school has ensured the family contribution will be $0. For families with household incomes up to $150,000, the Fair Shot Fund ensures the family contribution will be capped at $15,000.

According to Colby College, since 2014 the school has increased financial aid by almost 80%, with its total financial aid budget rising to $52 million in 2021.

The goal is to make sure that competitive students in Maine don’t turn down Colby because of the sticker price, said Matt Proto, vice president of Enrollment and Communications and the dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at Colby College.

“Financial aid is a huge component in (students) being able to make that decision whether or not to apply, and then of course whether or not they decide to enroll at the institution,” Proto said in an interview.

In the past year, Colby offered almost $7.5 million in financial aid to in-state students, which currently make up 8.5% of students at the school. In-state students typically make up 8%-10% of the student body, although that number varies from year to year, Proto said.

The approach isn’t about meeting a target for the number of in-state students, Proto said. It’s about finding those students who would already be competitive in Colby’s admission process, and making sure they aren’t turned away because of the cost.

Donations like this make that all the more possible for the college to offer.

“We want to ensure that those students are thinking about remaining in the state for college and then hopefully remaining in the state after they graduate college as well — not thinking that they have to leave the state to have an incredible experience — but know that they can see the world in a different way if they remain in the state and come to a place like Colby,” Proto said.

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