You might be aware that last month Harvard radically changed its financial aid policy to greatly benefit students from families with annual incomes of up to $180,000 as well as financially less well-off ones. Not to be outdone, last week Yale announced that it will do the same for students whose families earn up to $200,000. Dartmouth is the latest college to announce a major overhaul: a new plan revealed this week provides completely free tuition to all students from families with less than $75,000 in annual income, replaces all loans with scholarships, and extends need-blind admission to international students.
So what’s next from less uh, well-endowed schools? Harvard has a $35 billion endowment, Yale stands at $22.5 billion, Dartmouth has a little over $3 billion, and all three have high growth rates. Clearly their new financial aid policies are excellent news for students accepted there, but what kind of precedent are they setting for the rest of the country? Besides the Ivy league and gigantic state universities, you won’t find many schools with this much to spend, and there’s little chance of Wesleyan (and other smaller schools) scrounging up enough billions of dollars to completely bail out students who could use a break on their tuition. It’s nice that schools like Wes are dropping loans for the lower income range, but there are inevitably many students who are going to end up dealing with a lot of debt after graduation. Does this guy have a valid argument in his New York Times Op-Ed about how Ivy League discounts put stress on less well-endowed schools to skew financial aid so it benefits wealthier students at the expense of poorer ones? Can SuperRoth help us out here by the time he’s done? Only time will tell.