Middle-Class Kids May Go Tuition Free

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collegeStudents lucky enough to be accepted to some of the most competitive schools in the country can save hundreds of thousands of dollars on tuition

In a trend that’s bound to come as a relief to parents of high school seniors facing sticker prices that approach $63,000 a year, a growing number of Ivy League and elite colleges are making college more affordable for middle-class families.

Stanford University announced last week that, starting this fall, students whose families make less than $125,000 a year will not pay any tuition. Previously, the school had set the bar at $100,000. With the move, Stanford has made it possible for more middle-class students to get a degree for what they’d spend in tuition at an in-state, public university (students with a family income above $65,000 a year still have to cover room and board). That makes an admissions offer that’s already among the most coveted in the country even more attractive.

Stanford is not the first elite school to slash tuition for middle-class and upper-middle-class students. (For reference, we’re going by the Pew Research Center’s definition, which calls a family of three in the U.S. middle class if they made between $40,667 and $122,000 in 2013.) While the wealthiest schools have long covered nearly all costs for their poorest students, Harvard since 2004 has steadily broadened the group of students to whom it gives financial aid, putting pressure on its peers to match its generous discounts. The aid programs have helped absorb some of the sticker shock from continuously rising tuition. Take a look at the top schools that students from a range of middle-class families can attend, tuition-free:

1. Princeton

Tuition for 2015-16: $43,450

Acceptance rate for the Class of 2019: 6.99 percent

Policy: Families making less than $54,000 a year don’t pay tuition, room, or board, and families making less than $120,000 a year don’t pay tuition.

2. Brown

Tuition for 2015-16: $48,272

Acceptance rate for the Class of 2019: 8.5 percent

Policy: Families making less than $60,000 don’t pay tuition, room, or board.

3. Cornell

Tuition for 2015-16: $48,880?

Acceptance rate for the Class of 2019: 14.9 percent

Policy: Families making less than $60,000 don’t pay tuition, room, or board.

4. Columbia

Tuition for 2014-15: $51,108

Acceptance rate for the Class of 2019: 6.1 percent

Policy: Families making less than $60,000 don’t pay tuition, room, or board.

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