Stanford for Free? University Expands Scope of Financial Aid

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Going to college just got a little easier and a whole lot cheaper for some Stanford University students.

Stanford announced it’s expanding its financial aid to students by increasing its income thresholds. The university will now waive tuition for students whose parents have typical assets and earn less than $125,000 per year (previously $100,000), Stanford said.

If family income is below $65,000 per year (previously $60,000), those students will also receive free room and board, Stanford added.

Stanford provost John Etchemendy said in a statement:

Our highest priority is that Stanford remain affordable and accessible to the most talented students, regardless of their financial circumstances. Our generous financial aid program accomplishes that, and these enhancements will help even more families, including those in the middle class, afford Stanford without going into debt. Over half of our undergraduates receive financial aid from Stanford, and we are pleased that this program will make it even easier for students to thrive here.

Students are expected to contribute at least $5,000 per year for educational expenses from summer income, savings and part-time work during the school year, the Stanford release added.

For students paying full freight at Stanford, which is based in Palo Alto, California, the cost can run close to $60,000 a year. (Ouch.) Undergraduate tuition is about $45,700 for 2015-16, while room and board costs an estimated $14,100, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Stanford noted that nearly 77 percent of its undergraduate students graduate with no student debt.

Before you get too excited about attending Stanford for free, take heed: the admissions process is not easy. Stanford announced that it had offered admission to 2,144 undergraduates for the class of 2019, out of 42,487 candidates who applied.

Although Stanford’s commitment to waive tuition and other expenses for students who qualify under its new income thresholds seems mighty generous, there are several colleges that have reduced tuition for all students, The Washington Post reports.

“Southern Virginia University, for instance, cut tuition and fees 23 percent from $18,900 to $14,600 a year, while Converse College in South Carolina brought down its prices by 43 percent to $16,500 a year,” the Post said.

U.S. News & World Report said that although free tuition for some students sounds great, “subsidizing tuition without addressing the true cost of college just puts a Band-Aid on an open wound.”

Stanford’s Board of Trustees has voted to hike tuition by a minimum of 3 percent every year for the past 10 years, U.S. News noted.

In doing so, the university funds its financial aid initiative in part from the tuition revenue wealthy students bring in. It also has a $21 billion endowment, and a portion of the returns each year goes toward university operations.

What do you think about Stanford’s tuition waiver for some students? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

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