The ‘Free College’ Fad is Catching On – Stanford and Washington Join Harvard and Yale

Last month, I discussed the new 2008 college endowment figures and answered the question: should you care? At the time I said no, but now I may be starting to change my mind.

California's Stanford University and Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri have joined the ranks of schools like Harvard and Yale in offering what has been dubbed 'free college' for students in certain financial brackets. Responding both to economic and political pressures, Stanford is offering free tuition to families earning less than $100,000 annually, and free room, board, and other expenses to families earning under $60,000. Washington University is also offering this new 'free college' program by replacing loans with grants for families earning under $60,000.

Stanford's new policy also hints at "other significant enhancements" regarding the financial aid program.

It has been common for universities, especially the top-ranked Ivy League colleges, to compete in "buying" elite students by luring them with attractive financial aid packages. As a result, their lesser performing and often economically disadvantaged peers would be forced to pay full price without much grant or scholarship assistance. Now there seems to be a greater emphasis on attracting a more diverse pool of students. Seeing colleges begin to use their hearty endowments for reasons outside of just 'merit money' is a big step in the right direction.

With several top-ranked schools reevaluating their financial aid packages, I estimate that it's only a matter of time until even more hop on the bandwagon. I have always believed that money considerations should not influence college decisions, and it is great to see this philosophy reflected in new policies focusing on providing wider access to education.

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I read about that for Stanford and Im not quite getting it.... It cant be "free" for people like me, college doesnt just come cheap like that we arent in Europe or Canada, but idk maybe it is just a big step in the right direction.

What about, people whene they turn 18 if they dont even have their familey to rely on for help with college why would their families income matter then?

- Elaine, 03/16/09 at 6:52 pm

is this forever or only for a year or two?

- Briar, 03/20/09 at 5:49 pm

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