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Ivy League Offering Free Ride for Middle Income Students

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America’s Top Colleges Are More Popular Than Ever

April 7, 2008

It’s April, which means that if you were one of the hundred thousand high school seniors shooting for an Ivy League education, you already know your fate. Hopefully you’ve spent the past few days celebrating that golden acceptance letter. But if you’ve been consoling yourself instead, perhaps this will help: you’re in very good company. The number of applicants to America’s Ivy League has reached an all-time high (the rates are double what they were just 10 years ago), and the percentage of students offered admission is scraping the bottom of the award letter barrel.

Here are some stats: According to The New York Times, Harvard fielded over 27,000 applicants – and only 7 out of every 100 got in. Yale was a bit more accepting: 8.3 out every 100 got the nod. The Ivy Leagues have always been a top choice for American high school seniors, but what’s behind the recent meteoric rise in the number of applicants? It might have a little something to do with the amazing financial aid deals they’re offering incoming freshmen.

  • In December 2007, Harvard kicked off the good news for the American middle class, announcing that it was capping family contribution at 10 percent of income for those that earn as much as $180,000 a year. The tuition discount trend started back in 2004, when Harvard gave a free ride to any student whose family earned $40K or less a year. In 2006, the school – which has largest endowment of any college in America (topping $34.6 billion) – extended the ride to families making less than $60,000. Under the new plan, families earning $60,000-$120,000 annually will contribute on a sliding scale, up to 10 percent, and those making $120,000-180,000 will pay exactly 10 percent of their income.
  • Not to be outdone, Yale University announced in January that it would cut tuition by 50% from students from families earning as much as $200,000 a year. For those whose parents make less than $60,000, Yale’s a free ride.
  • In February, Brown University announced that it was eliminating tuition for families earning less than $60,000/year and would substitute grants for loans in award packages to families making less than $100,000.
  • In March, Columbia University followed suit, announcing that families making up to $60,000 a year could send their kids for free. Also in March, MIT (the Massachusetts Institute of Technology) said it would give a free ride to undergraduates from families making less than $75,000 a year.

If you’re a sophomore or junior in high school, and Harvard isn’t even a pipe dream, don’t sweat it: The discounted tuition trend is already having a trickle-down effect. From elite liberal arts colleges to state universities, university budget officials are putting their costs up on the chopping block in an effort to make school more affordable.

For more on getting ready for college, check out our article on College Prep.

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