Most of the time when articles are written about college affordability, they tend to focus on the negative aspects. Given the surplus of bad information, this is not entirely surprising. As a glass half-full type of person, I thought it was due time for some uplifting information. Two weeks ago, Stanford made an exciting announcement. The University said that tuition would be entirely free for students whose parents make less than $125,000 per year (this was $25,000 higher than the previous threshold). The school also announced that room and board would be free for students whose parents make less than $65,000.
Seem too good to be true? Let’s not get too excited. There is some fine print. Each student will still be required to pay $5,000 toward his or her education. However, to put it into perspective, the average Stanford undergraduate education costs approximately $65,000 per year. I don’t know about you, but as someone who is still paying off college debt (and will be for the foreseeable future) this kind of information makes me feel something like this:
Of course, you have to get accepted first, but this type of financial help is not just limited to this Ivy League school. Harvard, Yale, and Princeton all have similar financial incentives. According to articles I have read, most of these schools take this initiative because they want an economically diverse student population.
While the sentiment is noble, it is important to note that an essentially free education at these Ivy schools does not mean an easy ride. A recent story in the Boston Globe examined the hardships and cultural adjustments that lower income students, who are often first generation college attendees, deal with at these elite campuses. Fortunately, campuses and other organizations are recognizing these hardships and are being more proactive about acclimating such students. For example, The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation sponsors an online resource called I’m First, a resource which is intended to “celebrate first-generation college students and [is] supporting those who will be.” Regardless of their cultural assimilation, lower income students have extremely high graduation rates at these schools, a stark contrast to the rate at non-Ivy schools. In a world where education and opportunities are paramount to success, that is an incredibly uplifting statistic.