Stanford Gets It Right


by David Safier

Here is some very good news on the higher education front. Stanford University will not charge tuition to a student whose family earns less than $100,000 a year. Wait, it gets better. The college will waive the cost of room and board as well if the family earns less than $60,000. (The most complete article I found is on the San Francisco Chronicle website.)

I want to take a moment to savor this. A student who is accepted under Stanford’s “need-blind” admission policy but can’t afford the $38,400 tuition, not to mention room and board, doesn’t have to go with a second choice or graduate from Stanford with a six figure loan. If you can figure out how to get to the campus and take care of your incidental expenses (you may still have to cover books and materials, I don’t know), you can get a free education at one of the greatest universities in the world.

Sometimes I’m very proud of this country. (Ohmygod, did I have a Michelle Obama moment there? Let me rephrase that. At moments like this, I swell with pride about the possibilities this country offers when we’re at our best. I swear, if I see a news clip of a group of freshman from low income families entering the Stanford campus next September, I’ll probably burst into tears.)

The reason Stanford can afford to do this is that its endowment grew 22% last year. It’s now at $17.1 billion. That endowment is tax exempt, and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) made the comment that these schools “aren’t using enough of their endowments to help students afford college.” That may have made Stanford a little nervous, I don’t know.

Did I mention Grassley is a Republican? Yes, I did. I just wanted to mention it again. Sometimes I’m very, very proud of this country. (Ohmygod, I did it again!)

Here’s what I want to hear a Tucson high school graduate say this June: “I was planning to go to Pima Community College next year, but I couldn’t afford the tuition, so I’ll be going to Stanford instead.”


  1. Reading things like this really make me regret the slew of poor decisions that have gotten me where I am today. ce la vie I suppose.

  2. I think that the big impact will be for those students that have high enough SAT/ACT scores to get into college, but don’t have all of the other pieces needed to get into Stanford.

    Stanford has long been an institution that reached out to under-served populations. Several former students from the school district that I used to teach at on the Navajo Reservation got full rides to the ‘Furd as part of their program targeting Native Americans. These students all would have had scholarships to other schools based on grades, test scores and class rank, but only one would have had a reasonable expectation of being able to attend Stanford (Her dad is an author and painter and may have had the means to cover her expenses. She is now an activist for Native American rights in Flagstaff).

    It is great to see a university take it’s billions of dollars in endowments and put it into undergrad education instead of a new edifice such as a sports facility or administration offices.

    Will we see something similar come from Yale, Harvard, or other top flight schools?

  3. Sometimes my poor attempts at humor get me in trouble. The line about PCC was supposed to highlight the point that Stanford would even be cheaper than PCC. Maybe I should preface these kinds of statements with something like, “A Stanford student and a PCC student walk into a bar…” Again, kidding! I don’t advocate college students drinking in bars. It’s just . . . never mind.

    I’d love to know what you find out in the case of your daughter. I took the article at face value, and I hope it proves true in your case.

  4. As someone of meager means with a daughter at Stanford, I am eager to see what this means. On the front lines of this conversation, I can promise you Stanford’s shift has little relevance for Tucson High graduates considering PCC.

    Students of the caliber to enter Stanford have a free ride at the UA or ASU. They don’t entertain a community college for a second. Stanford’s generosity plucks the prime from the U of A. Prime doesn’t do PCC. Why would it?