Among even the Ivy League schools, Princeton's rarified eating clubs and palatial residential colleges might seem inaccessible to lower- and middle-income students. While all elite schools can do more to place their educational experience within reach of these students, Princeton has just vastly expanded their need-based financial aid program. Now, families who earn under $100,000 will be able to send their talented kids to Princeton University for free.
The financial aid policy has been adjusted, effective starting Fall 2023. Previously, only families making less than $65,000 were given a complete aid package and an allowance for student's personal expenses. This is an income only twice the poverty level for a family of five. Contributing to tuition is out of reach for many families around that income level, and families making more struggle to meet rising tuition demands. With Princeton’s newly elevated threshold at $100,000, families making less will not pay a dime, and their children will receive $4,500 allowances for books and personal expenses such as moving and travel.
Over 1,500 students, a quarter of the student body, will benefit from this change. To its credit, Princeton did not stop there. The university also eliminated the $3,500 student contribution which was assessed annually for students at all income levels above a familial $65,000. Even wealthier families making as much as $300,000 will pay less. “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,” says University President Christopher L. Eisgruber. The University was the first in the nation to eliminate the loan component of financial aid packages in 2001, allowing many students to graduate with minimal or no debt.
As the Ivy League and other elite schools such as MIT, Stanford, and Caltech do not offer merit aid, financial aid boosts are critical to affordability. Princeton's latest announcement will surely make a difference to many current and future students. Hopefully more schools will follow suit in the future, ensuring that getting in—rather than paying—is the hard part.
Students from households earning $100,000 or less will attend Princeton University for free.
Financial aid is critical for children from low- and middle-income families who seek to attend higher education.