It's one of the most esteemed institutions in the country, but Stanford University doesn't want to make enrollment financially exclusive. In fact, the school is significantly expanding its financial aid policy to help more students enroll Stanford is offering free tuition to families that make less than $125,000, a more lenient figure than their previous limit. With the generous offer, the school is sending the clear message that money shouldn't stop qualified students from obtaining higher educations.
This week, Stanford University announced its admission of 2,144 students to its class of 2019, as well as an expansion of its financial aid policy. Going forward, parents who make less than $125,000 annually will not be obligated to pay a single cent of tuition. The qualifying limit was previously $100,000, but Stanford raised it to allow even more families to be eligible. Additionally, if families make less than $65,000, they won't have to pay room and board either.
That's a massive burden taken off of families, but the students themselves will have to contribute $5,000 per year toward their education with money from part-time jobs, summer income, or their own savings. It's a trade-off that not only makes sense — instilling work ethic in students before they graduate can positively influence their careers later on — but is feasible for most students.
When announcing the financial aid expansion, 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.
Stanford is able to offer such generous financial aid because of its own financial position. According to a Forbes report from last year, Stanford is the fourth wealthiest school in America, behind Harvard, Yale, and University of Texas System. Its endowment, as of August 2014, is $21.4 billion. Because it's one of the country's top research schools (as opposed to a liberal arts school), Forbes says, Stanford has no difficulty raising funds.
And as generous as its policy seems, financial aid only made up 5 percent of Stanford's total expenditures for the 2014-2015 school year. That barely makes a dent in its total funds. In other words, it's no skin off Stanford's back to make such an expansion with its financial aid. Nonetheless, it's still a major gesture, and by using its affluent position to help less privileged students, Stanford is setting an admirable example for other schools.
According to Karen Cooper, director of financial aid at Stanford, a whopping 77 percent of the Class of 2014 graduated with no debt (by comparison, about 70 percent of all Americans have student loan debt). That means that Stanford's students, who will likely become some of the brightest leaders in the country, can go on to concentrate on their careers without having to worry about student loan debt.
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