“Get Started” Initiative Helps Level Playing Field for Frosh

28 January 2022

A fund initiated by the Class of 1972 will enable first-year students with the highest need to “start strong,” says Vice President and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Art Rodriguez ’96. Funds dispersed to eligible students will be grants, not loans. “The Get Started Fund will help smooth over the kind of bumps that can derail a new student’s Carleton experience just as it’s beginning.” The funds will be put to immediate use next fall. Rodriguez estimates that newly admitted low-income students will need $50,000-$125,000 each year.

Donations to the fund now total more than $420,000 (including $175,000 matched from a challenge fund created by members of the class). It has the potential to grow substantially, thanks to a new challenge (see below) that could add more than $200,000 to the fund.

The college hopes that the Get Started initiative will inspire contributions by future reunion classes, enough so that it could become an endowed program in time. “It could make an enormous difference in the lives of so many deserving students,” notes Rodriguez.

From Mittens to Laptops

Financial aid packages generally factor in things like the average cost of books, and transportation, says Gift Committee Co-chair Pamela Muelhaupt Johnson ’72, whose career includes stints overseeing financial aid at St. Kate’s and elsewhere. “But they don’t take care of other things that can make or break a student’s college experience.” Things like: mittens or the warm jacket you didn’t know you needed because you’re from Texas. The ability to buy a Carleton T-shirt or a textbook that costs more than $100 or a laptop that will provide access to class materials 24/7 and enable a student to attend classes remotely as needed and write papers. The cost of ingredients for a meal you want to cook to share with your roommate or to assuage homesickness.

Proactive, Personal

Having to ask for help of this kind can be awkward at the very least. For that reason, Rodriguez says, the Get Started Fund will be proactive. Students who fit the criteria of the program will be informed before they come to campus that they are eligible for this assistance. That’s critical, says Financial Aid Director Rod Oto, because even if students arrive on campus with the $200 that the college recommends they have in hand to cover books, supplies, and other immediate expenses (and that’s not always possible), it can be as much as a month before money from on-campus work assignments will show up in their accounts.

The aid will be dispersed through the Admissions Office, not the Office of Financial Aid. “Due to federal and other regulations, we can’t respond nimbly enough,” says Oto. “Students in need require quick, non-bureaucratic, personal solutions.”

The Full Carleton Experience

“The response to the Get Started Fund has been remarkable,” noted Johnson. “I think that one reason the fund is popular,” she noted, “is that we can empathize with the situations recipients are experiencing. Few if any of us arrived on campus confident that we had with us everything we needed. We encountered many surprises along the way, like covering the cost of getting from the airport to Northfield or discovering the need for detergent and quarters for the washers and dryers or the pop machines. Those costs add up quickly—or, more accurately, they subtract quickly from funds that were limited to start out with. This fund is going to give many students the opportunity to enjoy their freshman year at Carleton to the fullest extent.”

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