Starting in 2023, Princeton students whose families make $100,000 or less will have their tuition, fees, room and board paid for.
Students with the ambition and the grades—but not the funds—to attend an Ivy League school may be eligible to attend Princeton University for free. Though the school isn’t the country’s most expensive college, the university announced on September 6 that it is expanding its financial aid program starting in 2023. Previously, the prestigious college covered costs for students whose families earned less than $65,000 per year. Now, families can earn up to $100,000 per year and still pay nothing for tuition, fees, or room and board.
The financial aid expansion will affect approximately one-fourth of the undergraduate student body, currently comprised of around 5,300 students. Princeton University President Christopher L. Eisgruber said in a media release that he hopes the program’s expansion will allow more students from diverse backgrounds to attend the esteemed school. “One of Princeton’s defining values is our commitment to ensure that talented students from all backgrounds can not only afford a Princeton education but can flourish on our campus and in the world beyond it,” he said. “These improvements to our aid packages, made possible by the sustained generosity of our alumni and friends, will enhance the experiences of students during their time at Princeton and their choices and impact after they graduate.”
Princeton is not only covering tuition, fees, room, and board but offering an expanded book allowance. For students admitted in 2023, the university is increasing its annual student textbook allocation, from $3,500 per student to $4,050. This move will add additional breathing room to students’ budgets, freeing up money for other incidental expenses.
Princeton’s decision is part of the ongoing conversation about rising college tuition costs. Other schools, such as Dartmouth, are looking for innovative ways to close the widening gap between the cost of college and families’ ability to pay. At Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, student loans have been eliminated from financial aid packages through its Call To Lead initiative. Programs like these are a welcome contrast to many other universities that chose to increase 2022 tuition well above the rate of inflation. The differing approaches fuel an already tense debate over whether a college degree is still worth the time and expense of obtaining one.
Families at higher income levels with multiple children in college will also benefit from the financial aid policy expansion. The Princeton media release includes charts to help families of prospective students understand how the changes will affect them according to their income. For example, families making $150,000 per year will find their total family contribution drop from $23,675 to $12,500. Families with annual income totaling $250,000 will have their total family contribution drop from $49,325 to $37,500. Even so, the majority of the new scholarship funding will be funneled to families earning less than $150,000.
According to the Princeton media release, additional benefits will be extended to free tuition recipients. These include allowing students with the highest financial needs to bring two helpers to campus for their first-year move-in and for their senior year Commencement. The university has also eliminated the $3,500 bonus students could earn through on-campus work during the summer. While that may sound like a bad thing, it potentially opens access to extracurricular and study abroad programs that lower-income students may have missed because they were working. Applying for the new financial aid program doesn’t affect the student’s admission process in any way. In fact, Princeton’s website emphasizes that admission is “need-blind” to ensure their school is open to students from all socioeconomic backgrounds.