(A02.02.05, Admissions 1931-35).
In the 1930s, Bowdoin distributed this poster to alert prospective applicants of four $500 scholarships available for students. These scholarships rested on one “competitive examination” administered by the College. When awarded a scholarship, students also gained automatic admission to Bowdoin. These scholarships were specifically available to students from four districts in Maine, suggesting that recruiting Mainers was a priority of the College at this time. Race is never mentioned in this advertisement, but it serves as a useful point of comparison for scholarships to come.
(A02.02.05, Admissions 1944).
A brochure about scholarships from 1944 describes the purpose of five scholarships the College offered for $425, which paid full tuition for two trimesters and subsidized housing arrangements, to high school students not from Maine. The scholarships, the document mentions, were contingent on successful academic performance and full-time enrollment at Bowdoin. Recipients of this scholarship were in need of financial assistance in order to attend Bowdoin, of tremendous “scholastic ability and attainment,” and possessed good “[characters] and qualities of leadership.” The brochure does not mention race as a factor in decision-making, which later financial aid documents allude to, and seeks students from outside of Maine to increase the College’s geographic diversity. The brochure also highlights the ten “Alumni Fund Scholarships” of $300 each, which covered two trimesters of a Bowdoin education. The College encouraged students turned down from other scholarships to pursue this option.
(A02.02.04, “What’s So Great About Bowdoin? An Unabashedly Biased View”).
A pamphlet from the late 1970s highlighting life at Bowdoin attributes the College’s ability to have a student body that is “about as diversified as could be found on any campus in the United States” to its financial aid program. Bowdoin’s aid, the material mentions, “assures representation from all social and economic levels.”
The material also boasts Bowdoin’s scholarships and “low interest loans,” as well as the fact that 45% of students received some form of financial aid. It goes on to quote a variety of Bowdoin community members about the merits of the aid program.
A trustee speaks of Bowdoin as a “leader in providing equal educational opportunities for disadvantaged youths, as witness its generous financial assistance to poor boys from Maine and black students.” Clearly, aid has been seen as a means of increasing diversity of the student population.
An analysis of comments deliberately chosen to include in this brochure would be remiss without noting the troublesome tone some strike. A faculty member calls Bowdoin’s aid “an ancient and honorable tradition which now helps the ghetto youngsters as well as the high achievers from rural Maine.” Describing the Mainers as “high achievers” while students from the city, likely people of color, as simply “ghetto youngsters” is presumptuous and demeaning. The description severely overgeneralizes students on aid and perpetuates the elusive idea of “ghetto.” An “overseer” describes Bowdoin’s attempts to “bring in many poor black youngsters” as a “heroic and successful venture,” meant to achieve “practical educational democracy.” Again, this description of aid speaks to its value as a means of achieving equity for low-income and minority students. However, referring to this venture as “heroic” in how it benefits “poor black youngsters” is rather paternalistic. While financial aid was undoubtedly useful in helping a greater variety of students access a Bowdoin education, the explanations behind these efforts were not always so sound.
(A 02.02.04, Bowdoin Gateways) (1990s).
This pamphlet is seemingly geared toward prospective Bowdoin students of color in the 1990s. It highlights a variety of topics, from academic programs to the social scene to life in Midcoast Maine. The material also includes a section dedicated to “Admission and Financial Aid.” Mentions of aid awards here begin without bringing up racial diversity. The pamphlet explains that “The College’s need-based financial aid policy and generous scholarship endowment make it possible for students from all economic backgrounds to attend Bowdoin.” Language here focuses on socio-economic diversity, however, the pages in the section feature multiple pictures of black students, suggesting that aid serves as a means for students of color to access Bowdoin as well. The brochure goes on to explain that roughly 40% of the student body receives aid and that the College awarded over $5,000,000 in “scholarship and loan funds” in the 1988-89 school year.
The document also mentions the variety of specific scholarships Bowdoin offered to its students, which diversified since the scholarship listings of the 1930s. These awards “supplement the grant amount and reduce the loan portion of a financial aid award.” Scholarships include “the John B. Russwurm Scholarship for black students, two special scholarships for international students, and other special aid packages for black, Hispanic, and Native American students, as well as students from rural Maine communities.” In providing scholarships meant specifically for students of color, Bowdoin further established supporting and growing this demographic as top priorities.