First-Gen & Low-Income Students

The following is excerpted from a letter sent by Dean Ajay Nair, in response to questions posed by students of the Emory First-Generation Low Income Partnership at its  February 22, 2017 dinner. This letter, dated March 11, 2017, addresses Emory's aims, stance, and progress on a number of items:



Thank you for inviting me to the FLIP dinner. It was a deeply moving and rewarding experience. I know my colleagues had a similar experience. As a first-generation college student myself, I was in awe of your courageous leadership on these important issues. 

Emory University derives its strength in large part from its diversity and supports its first-generation students and those from low socio-economic backgrounds. We are strengthening this support by building on existing Emory programs and creating new initiatives. 

Below please find our current position on many of the action items you identified. We look forward to working with you to advance our work in these areas and others. 

Highlights include:


The bookstore provides $25 scholarships to assist first-generation and low-income students with purchasing their graduation regalia. It has also negotiated a lower fee for regalia to greatly reduce the cost for students. 

Application Fee Waivers

The $75 application fee is waived for all applicants who apply using the QuestBridge application. This year 1,653 applicants received this benefit. Fee waivers are also provided to applicants working with selected community-based organizations. This year we focused on the National Hispanic Institute scholars.

Students applying via the Common Application or Coalition Application can have their application feeswaived by simply indicating on the application that they meet any one of a list of criteria set forth by those application platforms. Below are waiver fee request indicators set by the Common Application. You may qualify with any one of them:

  • You have received or are eligible to receive an ACT or SAT testing fee waiver.
  • You are enrolled in or eligible to participate in the Federal Free or Reduced Price Lunch program (FRPL).
  • Your annual family income falls within the Income Eligibility Guidelines set by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service.
  • You are enrolled in a federal, state, or local program that aids students from low-income families (e.g., TRIO programs such as Upward Bound).
  • Your family receives public assistance.
  • You live in a federally subsidized public housing, a foster home or are homeless.
  • You are a ward of the state or an orphan.
  • You can provide a supporting statement from a school official, college access counselor, financial aid officer, or community leader that it is appropriate to waive the application fee.

Fly-In Visit Programs

Emory’s CORE fall visit program is a two-night, three-day program for prospective students from first-generation and/or underrepresented cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. All expenses are paid for the visit program. The program accommodates 60-70 students. 

Essence of Emory is our invitation-only, admitted student spring visit program designed to support talented, high-achieving students from underrepresented backgrounds. All expenses are paid for the program, including travel. Past programs have hosted between 75 and 85 students. This year the program will expand to 130 students. 

Travel Assistance Grants

The Office of Admission provides travel grants for admitted students who demonstrate financial hardship. A travel reimbursement grant is provided for attending an admitted student event in April. Approximately $25,000 of funds is available to provide grants this spring. 

Waived Enrollment Deposits

The $485 enrollment deposit is waived for all admitted students with an EFC (Expected Family Contribution on which our financial aid offer is based) below $6,000. 

Emory Advantage

This financial aid initiative makes the cost of an Emory education more accessible for lower-income families. Families who demonstrate financial need and have total incomes of $50,000 or less receive a Loan Replacement Grant. This grant replaces the Federal Subsidized Stafford Loan that is normally in a financial aid package. (Typically the loan expectation is $3,500 for first-year students.)

The Emory Loan Cap Program limits total four-year, Federal Subsidized Stafford Loan debt to $15,000 for those families with incomes between $50,000 and $100,000. 

Departments at Emory (Mental Health/Financial Aid/Residence Life) 

Financial Aid

Any student whose application materials are submitted on-time, even a month late, will have a refund available nine to 10 days prior to the start of classes. This will aid in the ability to purchase books. It is very likely that students who experience a late refund also filed late applications – or have applications that were both late and audited (verified) based on federal rules.

The federal government has a new policy this year. Students applying in 2017 only need to provide 2015 tax returns (two years prior). That policy should reduce late application submissions, since many students would not have 2016 taxes completed. That will be the policy going forward (e.g., 2018 applicants will need 2016 taxes, etc.).

The Emory Lending Library has textbooks and other educational resources that students can check out for an entire semester. Subject areas include humanities, language, literature, science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Micro Grants

Student Case Management and Intervention Services now offers micro grants to assist students with food, travel,and other expenses associated with curricular or co-curricular activities. Micro grant awards vary in allocation, but typically support opportunities at $200 or less; or larger initiatives upon successful application. OSSPS assists students and their families on an ongoing basis and in times of crisis.  It offers a wide range of resources, including academic, medical, financial and social challenges.  It serves as a safe and welcoming space for students who need access to their services.

Residence Life

Residence Life is integrating first-generation/low-income concerns into its inclusion training for resident and student assistants this year. In December 2016, Residence Life partnered with other Campus Life organizations to create seven spaces for students in crisis or need. In addition, Clairmont housing is available to juniors and seniors; Tower housing is available to sophomores.

Mental Health Support

Emory is invested in supporting the mental health needs of its diverse student population, which involves attention to the needs of individual students and those of the overall student body. Support is provided through various Campus Life offices, including:

  • Counseling and Psychological Services
  • Student Health Services (e.g., most students needing psychotropic medications can visit Student Health Psychiatry without visit fees or session limits)
  • Office of Health Promotion
  • Student Case Management and Intervention Services
  • Center for the Advancement of Student Advocacy and Agency (CASA2)
  • Residence Life 

Campus Life also partners with various offices across the university (e.g., Office of Spiritual and Religious Life, Office of Undergraduate Education) to provide additional student support. We believe it is important to meet the needs of allstudents to create a healthy campus community. Within that framework, we feel fortunate to be able to offer such a breadth of support services to our students at Emory.   

Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) also offers an array of mental health services, including crisis intervention, initial assessments, brief individual and couples’ therapy, various types of group therapies, support/discussion groups, a biofeedback clinic, community-level interventions, and classes on stress management and emotion regulation.  

Because the already high demand for individual services continues to increase, CAPS has introduced guidelines to clinicians to operate from a brief-therapy model, which allows us to provide services to as many students as possible. Currently, this involves a general guideline to limit individual counseling to approximately seven sessions beyond intake. We will connect students needing additional support to other CAPS services, on-campus resources, or facilitate referrals to providers in the community, ranging from low-cost agencies to private practitioners who accept insurance. 

A challenge always exists in maintaining a balance between providing sufficient depth of services and meeting the breadth of demand for those services. Invariably, the wishes of many students for CAPS to provide unlimited individual services must make way for the parameters of what can be provided within our mission and inherently limited resources. In considering how to balance the depth/breadth dilemma, we recognize that all our students do not arrive here with the same level of financial resources, and we must navigate through the realities of what it means to provide good clinical care using our best clinical judgment, while also considering issues of equity and social justice. 

Additionally, we recognize that some students may face situations that are unfeasible or even unsafe in seeking services away from the privacy of CAPS (as we do not bill insurance). Because we are committed to meeting the mental health needs of individuals and the larger student community, we exercise our clinical judgment in deciding when and why it’s most appropriate to extend services beyond our session limit and when to facilitate a referral to another service within CAPS, on campus, or in the local community. 

As we move forward, we aim to enhance mental health services at Emory. Our goal is to continue to improve on the efficacy of our clinical services while also aspiring to make them a bit less necessary as we work collectively to make Emory an increasingly healthy campus environment for all our students.  

As it relates to safe spaces, a task force of students, faculty and staff are working together to reimagine the Alumni Memorial University Center (AMUC) as a place to facilitate the growth and development of our diverse cultural communities.  Emory has a long tradition of developing cultural centers and other safe spaces to help students in enacting their shared values, passions and concerns for positive transformation in our communities and the world.  The AMUC opportunity will allow the development of a diverse array of identity spaces that will have the potential to transform the climate of the entire campus.

Career Services Support

The Emory Career Center offers the Civic Scholars Program to address costs associated with unfunded internships, up to 10 awards at $1500 are available for summer. The center also covers some travel costs for off-campus interviews on a case-by-case basis, and the Clothing Closet to assist with professional attire. In addition, the Center hosts a fall diversity career fair for employers targeting underrepresented students. 


The Emory Campus Life Communications team will work with the Student Case Management and Intervention Services to develop a promotional campaign to raise campus awareness of resources available to first-generation and low-income students. 

While this letter responds to most of the action steps presented by FLIP, academic and faculty items have been forwarded to the appropriate administrators for follow up. You may receive a separate communication or engage them in person at our forthcoming meeting to discuss next steps. 

We recognize that we have considerable work to do to create the environment we all desire to support first-generation and low-income students. I will ask Adrienne Smith, Interim Director of Student Case Management and Intervention Services, to help us organize a meeting to begin the process of identifying gaps in services, timelines, and accountability measures. 


Our commitment to a successful Emory experience for all students is grounded in the university’s dedication to the advancement of knowledge through inclusivity and diversity – and to affirming in all students a sense of belonging in the Emory community.  We look forward to working with you to achieve this goal. 


Ajay Nair, Senior Vice President and Dean of Campus Life