Colby Receives Transformational Gift for Financial Aid

Announcements4 MIN READ

An extraordinary $50-million commitment will benefit thousands of families over time

By George SopkoPhotography by Ashley L. Conti
February 7, 2024

To continue to broaden the demographic and socioeconomic diversity of its student body, Colby College announced today that it has received an extraordinary new gift of $50 million for financial aid.

The new commitment from the Lunder Foundation will support Colby’s ongoing efforts to enroll and graduate talented students from all backgrounds. The impact of this transformational gift, which is one of the largest in the College’s history, will be felt for generations, and over time thousands of students and their families will benefit from it. It also will ensure that Colby’s financial aid program remains one of the most generous programs in the country.

“A major priority for the College has been to open the doors of Colby to talented students from around the world and to ensure it is affordable for all of them,” said President David A. Greene.  “Our leading financial aid program makes this possible, and it is only possible because of the commitment of the Colby community to access and equity. That has never been more true than today with this remarkable gift from the Lunder Foundation and its founders, Peter and Paula Lunder. While their contributions to art and medicine have been legendary, their hearts are with the future of our young people. They know the value of hard work and of never letting talent go to waste. This gift is a manifestation of those values and will forever change Colby and improve the lives of untold numbers of students who will benefit from an education that will allow them to shape the world for the better.”

Ensuring that Colby is accessible and affordable to the most-deserving students has been a key focus for the College and its Dare Northward campaign. From creating the Fair Shot Fund so families earning up to $150,000 contribute no more than $15,000 annually to launching a $0 contribution program for parents/guardians with household incomes of $75,000 and under, Colby has developed a financial aid program that is among the most generous in the nation. With a long history of supporting the College, the new $50-million gift from the Lunder Foundation will play a major role in expanding Colby’s financial aid program, allowing the best and brightest students to experience a Colby education, regardless of their financial resources, and graduate without student loan debt.

“I know it is the Lunders’ hope, as it is ours, that this extraordinary act of generosity will inspire others to ensure Colby’s financial aid funds are permanently endowed and always available not only for our next class but for generations to come.”

President David A. Greene

Supporting financial aid for higher education has always been one of the major areas of interest of the Lunder Foundation,” said Peter Lunder ’56, D.F.A. ’98 and Life Trustee Paula Lunder, D.F.A. ’98. “We feel that it is vitally important to provide the means for qualified students to have access to the life-changing educational opportunity offered by outstanding institutions of higher learning. It is for that reason that our foundation supports endowed scholarship funds at 14 such institutions, including Colby. We are particularly pleased to support greater access to the Colby experience for deserving students. Since President Greene has arrived, we have admired his vision for Colby College. The Lunder Foundation and family are pleased to support an initiative of such utmost importance.”

Continuing the Momentum

By more than doubling its financial aid budget over the last 10 years, Colby has been able to recruit, enroll, and support more students from all socioeconomic backgrounds. To that end, from 2014 to 2023 the College increased the number of first-generation-to-college students by 38 percent, and according to the most recent report by the American Talent Initiative, of which Colby is a member, it had the highest rate of growth of Pell Grants (a need-based federal financial aid program) between 2015-16 and 2021-22 among the more than 135 high-graduation-rate member institutions.

What has resulted is a student body that represents an incredible range of backgrounds and perspectives. The Class of 2027, which arrived on campus this past fall, represents 42 U.S. states, 50 countries, and 445 high schools; 18 percent will be the first in their family to attend and graduate from college; and 16 percent are federal Pell Grant recipients, a 2 percentage point increase from the previous year. 

Colby has also continued its commitment to attracting the best and brightest students from its home state of Maine. This includes traveling to every available high school throughout the state; offering early college-planning programs for middle and high school students; and hosting students and counselors on campus as part of the College’s work with the Small Town and Rural Students College Network, a nationwide partnership of 16 colleges/universities aimed at supporting the higher education aspirations of rural and small town students. 

“As we continue to receive record numbers amount of applications as well as requests for financial aid, this gift couldn’t have come at a better time,” noted President Greene. “I know it is the Lunders’ hope, as it is ours, that this extraordinary act of generosity will inspire others to ensure Colby’s financial aid funds are permanently endowed and always available not only for our next class but for generations to come.”