One of the biggest political issues within the current election has been college tuition, and presidential candidates, such as Bernie Sanders, have been suggesting that the nation ought to provide free higher level education. Though detractors claim that free college is too expensive to implement, some elite private universities have already started making their tuition far more affordable. One of the colleges to make such a revolutionary change in their tuition system is Stanford.
Normally, tuition at Stanford is about $46,000 annually, without even including the cost of room and board. Stanford Provost John Etchemendy says, “Our highest priority is that Stanford remain affordable and accessible to the most talented students, regardless of their financial circumstances.” Therefore, if a student has a family that makes less than $125,000 each year and has less than $300,000 in assets, tuition will be covered for them. If the student’s family does not make at least $65,000 a year, the student’s room and board will also be free.
In order to make this idea feasible, Stanford will use their $21 million endowment to pay for the students who cannot afford tuition. Students are still expected to contribute about $5,000 annually, which can be made through part time work. This plan will allow students of all incomes to go to Stanford, as long as they meet the college’s rigorous academic requirements.
Stanford is not the only elite college to offer such a solution for lower class students. Harvard and Yale only require 10 percent of the price of tuition from students whose families do not make more than $150,000 annually, and tuition is free for those students from families with less than $65,000 a year. Princeton also gives free tuition to students with a family income of less than $120,000, and students from families with less than $65,000 also get free room and board.
Since students have an average of $29,000 in student loan debt, these colleges are helping to make education more affordable. However, the elite private colleges are only able to do this because they get so much financial support through charity and alumni donations, and only the best of students even have the opportunity of taking advantage of these offers. Almost any job now requires a college education, and the cost of tuition and books for college students continues to increase at a rate far higher than average inflation.
While only the best and brightest may get into an elite private college, legislation promoted by President Barack Obama helps high school graduates get free community college, as long as their GPA is at least a 2.5. Other programs in individual states and cities also make community college an affordable option for people who show that they are a serious student. Currently, the federal government spends $69 billion each year to help students go to many public and private colleges. This total is higher than the total annual tuition of public universities.
Since more private universities are covering tuition costs for students, proposals to make all public higher university free seem more feasible. The government easily has the money to do this, if they quit providing some students with scholarships to private universities, which are beginning to cut tuition costs for students from middle and lower class families. If college tuition is not limited to those who can afford exorbitant fees, students from all backgrounds will have the chance to get a good education that will further their career goals.