Phi Beta Cons

Brown’s on the Bandwagon…

Not a week after Stanford announced a similar policy, Brown joins it, Harvard, Yale, and Dartmouth in making undergraduate education free for students from families making less than $60,000/year. In Brown’s case, the student loan component of tuition is being replaced by grants for those students from families making less than $100,000.
I find little to object to in this trend. These schools are mostly spending funds donated specifically earmarked for financial aid and not spending out of their endowment’s capital or returns to achieve this boost. And a policy like this frees up students to pursue whatever career they’d like to after graduation, without having to worry about paying back exorbitant student loans. (Without financial aid, Brown costs $47,000/year.) I know many talented people who looked into working for the CIA, the DoD, etc. only to choose investment banking or consulting because it was the only way they could become debt-free in under 20 years.
Any top school that can afford to do so is going to have to adopt this policy if it wishes to stay competitive. Being able to say your institution offers a free education is an awfully good talking point, and I don’t see why a student would want to go to schools that are essentially on par otherwise — Princeton vs. Yale or Georgetown vs. Brown — when one offers to pay for everything and the other does not.

Travis Kavulla is director of Energy and Environmental Policy at the R Street Institute. He is a former president of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners who held elected office as a Montana public service commissioner for eight years. Before that, he was an associate editor for National Review.


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