Beginning fall semester of 2017, UNH will eliminate tuition costs for approximately 285 incoming first year students, according to UNH Today.

According to UNH Media Relations Director Erika Mantz, this program, titled the Granite Guarantee, is overseen by the UNH Financial Aid Department and will pay the outstanding cost of tuition after merit scholarships and grants are applied. To qualify for the Granite Guarantee, students must be Pell grant recipients and have been admitted to the university’s Durham or Manchester campuses for fall 2017 as a full time, in-state student.

U.S. News and World Report ranked New Hampshire as number 48 in the nation in regard to students graduating from higher education institutions with low debt. According to UNH’s Undergraduate Admissions’ web page, in-state tuition for the 2017-18 academic school year is $28,562 including tuition, fees, and room and board. In an attempt to make college more affordable, Granite Guarantee eligible students will receive approximately $4.8 million in grant and scholarship aid, according to Mantz.

“Removing barriers to higher education for the state’s best and brightest students has been the top priority of President [Mark] Huddleston over the last decade,” Mantz said. “And the Granite Guarantee demonstrates our strong commitment to access and affordability.”

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) process determines who is Pell-eligible, meaning the university has no say in the selection of its Granite Guarantee students.

According to the U.S. Department of Education’s website, “The Federal Pell Grant Program provides need-based grants to low-income undergraduate and certain post-baccalaureate students to promote access to postsecondary education.”

Pell grants are either credited to the recipient’s account or awarded directly to the student in the form of a check. For the 2016-17 award year, the maximum award is $5,815. However, individual award is dependent on tuition cost, financial need, whether the student is full or part time and their plans to attend school for a full or half academic year.

“This year, 21 percent of all New Hampshire undergraduates at UNH were Pell-eligible,” Mantz said.

According to Student Body President Jonathan Dean, the program is exactly what students have been asking for. Though Dean states his complete support for lowering tuition and fees, he notes it can be very challenging for the institution to do so given its overall expenses and limited state funding.

“It’s a good effort by the university to show students that they care and that they want to assure that all students can attend the University of New Hampshire,” Dean said.

According to UNH’s Granite Guarantee Webpage, the program’s implementation is directly related to the fundraising conducted by the Celebrate 150 campaign, though it does not specify how much the campaign contributed.

According to Mantz, the Granite Guarantee is a “four year commitment” if the students remain Pell-eligible during their matriculation through UNH. Though the program is not available to current or transfer students, there is hope to broaden eligibility in the future.

“UNH hopes in future years, depending on continued robust fundraising and increased state support, to expand this program beyond first-time freshmen,” Mantz said.

Executive Editor