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Special Deals on College Tuition

Kimberly Lankford

I read that the University of Pennsylvania just started offering free tuition, room and board for low-income families. Do any other colleges have similar programs?



I read that the University of Pennsylvania just started offering free tuition, room and board for low-income families. Do any other colleges have similar programs?

University of Pennsylvania joins a handful of big-name public and private colleges offering special deals for families whose incomes fall below certain levels. At Penn, the limit is much higher than you might expect. The program is available to families with annual incomes of $50,000 or less.

Financial aid always helped low-income families afford the giant college bills. But the key feature of Penn's new program is that it promises to meet the family's entire need with no loans. Penn's list-price tuition is $32,400, and room and board is $9,400 for the current school year. The highest-need students will receive grant aid of more than $45,000 in the 2006-07 school year.

There's been a lot of competitive activity in this area over the past month. Stanford just introduced a similar program for students whose families earn less than $45,000. Harvard, which started its program in 2004, just raised the income limit from $40,000 to $60,000 last week and reduced contribution requirements for families earning up to $80,000. In early March, MIT said it would match Federal Pell Grants with its own grant program, covering a big part of the costs for families earning less than $40,000. Last year, Yale announced that families earning less than $45,000 would get a free ride, with substantial cuts in the contribution required for families earning up to $60,000. And in 2001, Princeton replaced student loans in the financial aid package with grants for all students.

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Several public colleges, such as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Virginia and the University of Maryland also have similar programs.

These programs make it worthwhile to apply to some high-priced schools even if you don't think you have enough money to pay the bills. But there's one big catch: You still need to get accepted into the college, which can be tough to do. Harvard, for example, only accepted 9.1% of its applicants for last year's freshman class. Still, it can be worth a try and generally just requires the standard aid application.

For more tips on paying for college, see What You Need to Know About College Aid and Master the Financial Aid Process. Also check out our Best Values in Public Colleges article and survey for other good deals.

Got a question? Ask Kim at askkim@kiplinger.com.




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