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31 Years at Pomona

Upon her retirement from Pomona, Director of Financial Aid Patricia Coye looks back on the past three decades.

For the past 31 years, Director of Financial Aid Patricia Coye has been tackling tuition prices and an ever-increasing demand for aid to make Pomona a possibility for thousands of students. Now, as she prepares for retirement in this month, Coye looks back at her three-decade-long career and the growth of the Financial Aid Office from a simple four-person operation to one of the nation’s most respected financial aid programs.

“It was obvious from the beginning that Pomona had a serious commitment to its student aid program,” she says. “The College really does carry the lion’s share of the financial aid budget and it’s unwavering.”

Coming to Pomona in 1977 after working at Scripps College, Coye led a small staff charged with managing financial aid for 600 students with an annual budget of just under $2 million. Today, the office assists more than 800 students with a budget in excess of $25 million. In addition, Coye’s office manages and distributes a growing pool of endowed scholarships for students.

“Everything seemed a bit simpler then,” she says. “The numbers have grown, the dollars have grown, and the complexity of the programs have grown.”

Despite the challenges of the constantly changing industry, Coye’s goal has remained clear. Working closely with the College administration, the Financial Aid Office has succeeded in reducing student debt and maintaining accessibility. On average, Pomona graduates leave Claremont with less than $15,000 in debt—$5,000 to $10,000 less than the national average. Last December, Pomona also became one of the first colleges in the nation to replace student loans with college grants, a “remarkable” breakthrough that Coye says will reduce debt for young alums by thousands of dollars.

According to Coye, the aid that Pomona offers not only lifts the burden for students continuing on to graduate school, but also encourages young alums to pursue careers that they are passionate about, rather than ones that just pay the bills. “It’s great that the College can do that,” she says.

In addition to student debt, Coye also keeps a keen eye on eliminating the financial burden on families. Using comprehensive data, the Financial Aid Office has developed a science of ensuring every family can afford to send its children to Pomona. According to Coye, “getting to know the families and getting to be able to tell them ‘yes, it’s possible’ is the greatest part of this job.”

Over the course of her career, Coye has also become an integral part of the Pomona College family, building close relationships with college administrators, faculty and staff.

“Pat has truly affected more than half of the students who have marched through Pomona for her 30-plus years at the College,” said Vice President and Dean of Admissions Bruce Poch, who has worked with Coye for the past 20 years. “She is not rigid in her thinking and she does not approach students as though they were stealing from her wallet. That Pomona is so frequently counted among the ‘happiest’ is in part because of her work with students and their families.”

“Pat has presided over a transformation of the College’s approach to funding higher education. She has defined the way we want to approach financial aid,” said Vice President for Planning Richard Fass. “She has always been able to convey to families that she and the college want to do the right thing for them.”

A celebration for Coye's retirement will take place on September 19 at 3 p.m. in the Hart Room in the Smith Campus Center.

“I love this place,” she says. “It’s hard to leave, but it’s time.”--Travis Kaya '10