No tuition for low income students

By Sarelle Azuelos

One of the most prestigious American universities is now more financially accessible than ever. Stanford University has expanded its financial aid policy to allow students from low- to middle-income families to pay little to no tuition. The Californian institution current “need blind” admission policy ensures that students meeting requirements and accepted into the school will be able to attend whether they can pay or not.

Families making less than $60,000 will not be expected to contribute to any of their child’s post-secondary expenses, including tuition, room and board. Students are expected to contribute from part-time, on-campus work during the school year, which is expected to total $2,000 or 7.5 hours a week. They will be making an extra $500 to keep. Families making under $100,000–which includes real estate, savings and business net worth–should expect a contribution capped at $11,000 for textbooks, room and board but no tuition costs.

University of Calgary Enrollment and Registrar associate vice-provost David Johnston explained he thinks this policy is extravagant.

“[This new program] is an innovative one,” said Johnston. “It’s unusual because of the threshold that they’re talking about. One hundred thousand dollars to most of us seems like a lot of money and it is. It’s just so far out of what we consider to be families and students in need.”

The policy hasn’t been officially extended to international students but Stanford’s Financial Assistance website states students will be judged on a case-by-case basis.

Canadian Federation of Students chairperson Amanda Aziz would like to see tuition cuts across Canadian schools before funding for specific individuals.

“In theory, you’d be sure that university presidents say that their admission is by academia also but the ultimate breakdown is that if the student can’t afford it, they can’t go,” said Aziz. “There needs to be enough public funding in the system with the goal of reducing the upfront cost of PSE.”

While Aziz explained she would like to see increased funding for low-income families, she noted this would leave behind the majority of middle income Canadians.

Johnston explained the differences in funding between public and private universities contribute to Stanford’s ability to afford such a program.

“Some of the public universities in the States are quite similar to here; they get their funding through the government, through tuition and through research grants,” he said. “Stanford University, or private schools, have different kinds of endowments, typically in excess of a billion dollars, generating significant funds that they return back to the operating budget and to support students.”

A report from the Stanford News Service in 2007 claimed Stanford’s endowment to be worth $17.2 billion compared to the U of C’s $426.5 million in 2007.

Aziz and Johnston both stated education in Canada is a social program and don’t think an increase in private school funding would benefit students. Aziz ensured that her organization was lobbying the government to improve the students’ experience.

“In the mid-nineties, the government cut billions of dollars of funding from PSE spending,” said Aziz. “As a result, tuition fees skyrocketed across the country. It was a disaster. When you look at this as funding per capita or per student in comparison to the States, funding per student is actually higher in the U.S.”

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