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High ranking universities aim to aid the middle class

This February, Stanford University joined several high ranking Ivy League universities in waiving tuition for families whose incomes fall within the middle-class and upper-middle-class brackets. Members of the Mills College community have said that the decision is a big step toward increasing education accessibility.

Beginning with the Fall 2008 semester, Stanford will no longer charge tuition to those undergraduate students whose families earn less than $100,000 a year.

Stanford will also offer free room and board to students whose families earn less than $60,000 a year.

However, all students will be required to contribute at least $4,500 toward their education.

The tuition waiver is a response to a Jan. report that Stanford’s endowment had grown nearly 22 percent in the previous year and now totalled $17.1 billion, according to National Association of College and University Business Officers in Washington.
According to the College and University Endowments of 2005 Web site, Stanford has the third largest endowment in the country, following Harvard and Yale.

Laurel Roberts is a Stanford alumna who graduated in 2005 and is currently a biophotonics research associate at Mills. Roberts praised Stanford’s move and said she was not surprised with the new measure. She said that approximately 75 percent of the student body at Stanford was already receiving some form of financial aid.
Roberts said that although she does not “anticipate a radical change” to the student body, she said the change will increase both applicant numbers and applicant diversity.

“Anything that makes college a more attainable reality for students is always a step in the right direction.” Roberts said. “I hope that students who may have previously thought a Stanford education was financially out of the question will reconsider.”

Roberts said that even though some colleges may not be financially able to have an identical policy, “student aid should be both a responsibility and top priority of colleges and universities.”

In addition to the full tuition waiver for those in middle-class brackets, Stanford will also offer greater discounts to those making more than $100,000.

For those students, Stanford will reduce attendance cost based on the family’s assets and whether the student lives in a high-cost-of-living area.

Mills sophomore Chloe Diamond hopes that the measure will make Stanford more economically diverse and less exclusive. “It’s great that they could use the money to level the playing field,” she said.
While many Mills women respect Stanford’s tuition waiver, others expressed skepticism in the move.

Thea Chroman, a Mills alumna who graduated in 2007, thought that while Stanford’s new aid package may be a great idea, “I think it will only help a small percentage of the student body-the people who could get in.”
Kara Wittman, a Mills Literature instructor and Ph.D. student at Stanford, thinks the new change will have a positive effect among future decisions of other private colleges around the country.

“[The decision] will allow other private universities to gauge.the successfulness of the endeavor and use that to inform their own policies,” said Wittman.

“Rethinking university tuition is a positive and necessary thing, especially as a college education is increasingly becoming a baseline requirement for many professions.”

Roberts summed up her general thoughts about the measure:
“Stanford is fundamentally sending the message that everyone has a right to an education, regardless of financial background.”

According to a February New York Times article, Harvard, Yale, Brown and Dartmouth Universities have also created similar tuition waiving measures.