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The Best Schools in Life Are Free? April 20, 2008

Posted by twilightandreason in Higher Education.
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There is a truth that high school guidance counselors and college admission officers know. Some veteran teachers and coaches know it too, as do a growing number of college journalists. It’s a truth that seems, on its surface, to contradict common sense, conventional wisdom , and handed-down knowledge regarding the cost of a college education; and yet — strangely enough — it remains hidden from those students and families whom it would benefit the most.

The simple truth to which I refer is this: despite the higher stated cost for tuition, private colleges and universities are the cheaper, more cost-effective choice for students, especially those coming from low- and middle-income families. This was the case even before the recent trend among highly selective institutions toward 1)replacing student loans with grant aid for students at all levels, and 2)eliminating tuition costs altogether for students whose families fall within the middle and lower economic brackets.

A short 5 years ago, well before this trend began, the generous need-based financial aid pacakges offered by many of America’s wealthiest private colleges and universities brought the actual cost to students and their families of — to name one example — a Duke University education below the cost of a UNC – Chapel Hill education, even for in-state students, and especially for students at the lowest income levels.

With 1) the recent elimination of loan aid in favor of grant aid for students at all levels, 2 ) the full remission of college tuition for virtually all middle-income students, and 3) the full funding (tuition, room, and board) for working-class and poor students and their families, selective private institutions have become the option of choice for competitive college applicants needing financial assistance. Ironically, though, the affordability of private colleges and universities relative to their public counterparts remains largely overlooked by many who might seriously wish to consider this option, especially those who hail from some of the less affluent Black, Latino, and Native American communities. 

How much time will pass before this becomes widespread knowledge in low- and middle-income communities of color stands to be seen. So too does the long-term impact upon minority enrollments at selective public institutions, especially in states like California, in which prohibitions against affirmative action limit state universities’ ability to replace minority applicants drawn away from their campuses by the greater affordability of private education with students of color who present with less traditional qualifications.

Here is a list of those colleges and universities that have replaced loan aid with grant aid for students at all income levels: Amherst, Bowdoin, Claremont McKenna, Colby, Columbia, Dartmouth, Davidson, Harvard, Haverford, Pomona, Princeton, Stanford, Swarthmore, Williams Yale.

At the following institutions, parents who make $60,000.00 or less will be required to pay absolutely nothing towards the cost of their children’s college education: Columbia, Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Brown, Duke. 

For a complete list of private colleges and universities that have eliminated loans, tuition, and/or room and board for portions of their student bodies, take a look at this CHART that appeared on today’s NewYorkTimes.com website.

Posted by Ajuan Mance

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