I’m pleased that my alma mater, Stanford University, has significantly enhanced its undergraduate financial aid program. Specifically, families making less than $100,000 per year will not be charged tuition, and families making less than $60,000 per year will not be charged room and board. Stanford of course will continue its need-blind admission policy, in which students are admitted without regard to ability to pay.
I think one of the most important aspects of this change is that it eliminates student loans from the picture. Although loans previously made it possible for students from lower-income families to attend Stanford, the prospect of graduating from college with tens of thousands of dollars in debt can be quite discouraging. Politicians and pundits who preach that people can raise themselves from poverty through hard work and education don’t realize how intimidating massive debt can be for people who have had little money in their lives.
Unfortunately, most colleges and universities don’t have enough money to follow Stanford’s lead. However, this is a great step toward truly equalizing educational opportunities in this country. Now if only the medical, law, and other professional schools would follow suit.