Frequently Asked Questions:


Q: How do small gifts make a difference?

A: Every donor’s gift affects life at the College. Last fiscal year, gifts to Amherst under $100 added up to nearly $350,000! Small gifts support academic programming, research, improvements to buildings, student opportunities, and other ongoing, annual needs.  

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Q: What is the difference between the endowment and annual giving?

A: Annual giving goes directly into the operating budget and is used in that fiscal year.

Endowment giving is invested for the long-term benefit of current and future students, Only the endowment's earnings are used for this spending, while the principal accrues for future needs. Generations of support from alumni and other donors to the College have created an endowment that has an impact on the life of every student who has ever attended Amherst.

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Q: How big is Amherst’s endowment?

A: Over time, the endowment has grown through continued generosity from donors and gains from the prudent investment of endowment funds. As a result, Amherst’s endowment now totals $2.19 billion, or $1.2 million per student, making it one of the 10 largest endowments per student at any college or university.

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Q: When did the endowment begin?

A: Amherst’s original endowment consisted of $50,000 from 275 local benefactors and townspeople in 1821. The largest gift was $3,000 and the smallest was $5, and every one of those gifts was part of the College’s original endowment. In fact, because the endowment preserves donor gifts and spends only the investment income they generate, those original gifts are still contributing to the student experience today.

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Q: With such a large endowment, why does Amherst need my support?

A: Philanthropy (endowment distribution, Annual Fund, and other gifts) accounts for 60 percent of Amherst’s revenues, making it essential to the operation and success of the College.

  • The kind of education that Amherst provides depends upon close faculty and staff interaction with students, and on extensive resources for learning and growth.
    • Our faculty-to-student ratio is 8 to 1—one of the lowest in the country. In the last seven years, Amherst has added 21 new full-time faculty positions.
    • In addition to our outstanding faculty, Amherst hires staff dedicated to instruction and support, including lab technicians, Writing Center staff, Career Center staff, counselors, academic technology support, museum staff, academic department administrators and athletics staff.
  • We enroll exceptional students from across the country and around the world, including places and populations that are historically underrepresented in higher education.
  • And we offer one of the most comprehensive, ambitious financial aid programs in the country. Under our need-blind admission policy, which is possible only because of the resources provided by donor support, a family’s financial circumstances never affect whether we admit a student or not. 

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 Q: How does Amherst's financial aid compare to that of other institutions? 

A: Amherst is one of only five U.S. institutions that is need-blind and meets the full demonstrated need for both U.S. and international students. The other institutions are Harvard, MIT, Princeton and Yale.

  • Amherst has had a need-blind admission policy since 1965.
  • Generous support from Amherst alumni and friends allows Amherst to offer substantial financial aid. Our average financial aid package for the 2015-16 academic year is $50,255.
  • The College is routinely cited as one of the nation's most affordable colleges and universities. See, for example, "Misunderstood Tuition: An Elite-College Case Study" in The New York Times.
  • Amherst is able to remain affordable thanks to alumni and donor support of the Annual Fund and the endowment. Thank you!

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 Q: How much of Amherst’s expenses does the comprehensive fee cover? 

A: net tuition, room and board (the comprehensive fee) accounts for about 34 percent of Amherst’s revenues.

  • The comprehensive fee ($62,940) covers only about two-thirds of the real costs associated with an Amherst education, which is $98,987. This means that even students not receiving financial aid pay 36 percent less than the College’s cost per student

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 Q: What goals has the College set?

  • Reinventing residential liberal arts education for the 21st century.
  • Enrolling the most promising students from all social and economic backgrounds.
  • Investing in faculty recruitment and retention to ensure the finest teacher-scholars for our students.
  • Increasing innovation in teaching and learning.
  • Transforming student residential life with an emphasis on community.

New gifts can help support these and other plan priorities. As the plan states, “The quality of the institution depends on our ability to create opportunity for the most academically talented young people.”

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