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College Crisis – Are Tuition Free Programs On Their Way Out?

Not even 24 hours ago, I posted on students seeking tuition free colleges in the face of economic turmoil.  Now, the New York Times is reporting that the economic crisis is hitting colleges particularly hard and the effects are being felt in layoffs, hiring freezes, postponed construction projects, and tuition increases.  The article specifically notes that Tufts University, which currently has a need-blind admissions policy, is reconsidering that position:

“The target of being need-blind is our highest priority,” said Lawrence S. Bacow, president of Tufts. “But with what’s happening in the larger economy, we expect that the incoming class is going to be needier. That’s the real uncertainty.”

On the other hand, some colleges, such as Vassar, are actually committing more to financial aid, in spite of the crisis:

Vassar College will give out $1 million more in financial aid this year than originally budgeted, even though the endowment, which provides a third of its operating budget, dropped to $765 million at the end of September, down $80 million from late June. President Catharine Bond Hill of Vassar said the college would reduce its operating costs, but remain need-blind.

In the face of these stories, I can’t help but think that programs offering free tuition to the neediest students will be the first to be cut.  Hopefully, Obama’s economic stimulus package will take higher education costs into account.

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