MEDFORD/SOMERVILLE, Mass. – In a tough economy, Tufts University's first-of-a-kind loan repayment assistance program (LRAP) continues to help graduates working in the non-profit and public-service sectors repay their student loans. Now in its third year, Tufts' LRAP has given more than 830 awards totaling over $1.3 million to alumni. The program is believed to be the country's first LRAP to cover graduates of all schools across an entire university.
Anyone who has earned a degree from the university, is paying off educational loans incurred in order to attend Tufts and is employed by a non-profit or public sector agency is eligible to apply each year. The LRAP, which makes annual awards of $500 to $5000, is part of Tufts' larger commitment to enabling graduates to make a difference in the world while finding innovative ways to address the cost of higher education.
Alumni who have benefitted from the program work in fields as varied as education, health care, animal welfare, nutrition, government, social services and the arts. Tufts' LRAP has had a positive impact on the lives of many of these award recipients.
- Tackling Pressing Global Problems
Despite passing the U.N. Competitive Recruitment Exam in 2009, Matt MacGregor chose not to pursue a career with the U.N. that could offer a significant salary and great job security. Instead, the Tufts' Fletcher School graduate now works as the executive director of Indianapolis-based Timmy Global Health, a non-profit that expands access to healthcare while empowering students and volunteers to engage directly in global development. "There are a lot of dynamic, pressing problems out there. Going to Tufts for my undergraduate and graduate studies fostered a desire to be part of the solutions" he says. Tufts' LRAP helped make that possible.
- Crazy for Teaching
Rebecca Cotter, who earned her undergraduate degree in early childhood education at Tufts' School of Arts and Sciences, was initially dissuaded from pursuing a career in elementary education. "All of my family and friends told me I was crazy to go into teaching because I would have a ton of student loans, but I knew I had to go where I would be happiest," she says. "My student internships at Tufts ultimately helped shape what I wanted to do with the rest of my life." Now a teacher and a single parent in Dover, N.H., Cotter says that receiving the LRAP award for the past two years has helped her do what she "truly loves."
- Enhancing Health in the LGBT Community
"At Tufts I was surprised how altruistic the students were, how most people had something much bigger than them that they were working on," says Steven Elsesser, who earned his undergraduate degree in clinical psychology at Tufts' School of Arts and Sciences in 2009. Elsesser was active in the gay community at Tufts. Now at Fenway Health, he works closely on HIV and disease management in Boston's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. Elsesser hopes the LRAP will help young alumni pursue careers that give back to the community. "I think it takes a certain type of person to pursue a career in public service. The benefit is that people who have a real calling will find ways to make it work," he says. LRAP support over the past two years has helped Elsesser pursue his passion despite monthly student loan payments of $650.
- From Big Business to Small Animal Clinic
Cate Mansfield, a 2005 graduate of the Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, left a management position at a Fortune 500 company to pursue a career that was "more fulfilling and satisfying." After a taste of working at an emergency veterinary clinic, she realized a career revolving around animals was her true calling. Mansfield is now executive director of the Shenandoah Valley Spay and Neuter Clinic in Virginia and has been able to pay off her $30,000 in student loans with help from the LRAP over the past three years.
- Dental Care for New Hampshire's Needy
"Without programs like the LRAP I wouldn't have considered a position in public health dentistry," says Rebecca Groves, who graduated from Tufts School of Dental Medicine in 2008. She currently works as a general dentist at Families First of the Greater Seacoast, caring for many people who are homeless and uninsured. "This is a population with great need; it's important for young practitioners to try something they may not have initially considered because it may change the course of their future career.”
- Promoting Arts in New York
"We have a larger role to play in life, it's not all about good grades and making money that defines us," says Diana Caba, an art history and international relations double major who graduated in 2005. Caba took her love of art and working in the community and now serves as the program director of Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance, a non-profit arts service organization that supports and promotes the work of artists and arts organizations.
- Striving for Community Health
Bonnie Andrews, who earned her master of public health degree from Tufts' School of Medicine in 2008, feels that the LRAP "is incredibly important because it allows graduates to go into the field and take jobs that fill unmet needs in our community." As a community health analyst for Massachusetts-based Health Imperatives, Inc., Andrews works with local residents and experts to determine health areas that require the most assistance.
Funding for Tufts' LRAP is provided by income from the Omidyar-Tufts Microfinance Fund, which was established in 2005 with a $100 million gift from Tufts graduates Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay, and his wife, Pamela, and from a donation from the estate of George B. and Helen J. Hargens. Applications for next year's awards are due Sept. 1.
Tufts University, located on three Massachusetts campuses in Boston, Medford/Somerville, and Grafton, and in Talloires, France, is recognized among the premier research universities in the United States. Tufts enjoys a global reputation for academic excellence and for the preparation of students as leaders in a wide range of professions. A growing number of innovative teaching and research initiatives span all campuses, and collaboration among the faculty and students in the undergraduate, graduate and professional programs across the university is widely encouraged.