Ten Elite Schools Where Middle-Class Kids Don't Pay Tuition

Students lucky enough to be accepted to some of the most competitive schools in the country can save hundreds of thousands of dollars on tuition

Princeton As

A statue of former Princeton University President John Witherspoon outside the East Pyne building on the Princeton University campus in Princeton, N.J.

Photographer: Emile Wamsteker/Bloomberg

In a trend that's bound to come as a relief to parents of high school seniors facing sticker prices that approach $63,000 a year, a growing number of Ivy League and elite colleges are making college more affordable for middle-class families.

Stanford University announced last week that, starting this fall, students whose families make less than $125,000 a year will not pay any tuition. Previously, the school had set the bar at $100,000. With the move, Stanford has made it possible for more middle-class students to get a degree for what they'd spend in tuition at an in-state, public university (students with a family income above $65,000 a year still have to cover room and board). That makes an admissions offer that's already among the most coveted in the country even more attractive.

Stanford is not the first elite school to slash tuition for middle-class and upper-middle-class students. (For reference, we're going by the Pew Research Center's definition, which calls a family of three in the U.S. middle class if they made between $40,667 and $122,000 in 2013.) While the wealthiest schools have long covered nearly all costs for their poorest students, Harvard since 2004 has steadily broadened the group of students to whom it gives financial aid, putting pressure on its peers to match its generous discounts. The aid programs have helped absorb some of the sticker shock from continuously rising tuition. Take a look at the top schools that students from a range of middle-class families can attend, tuition-free:

1. Princeton

Tuition for 2015-16: $43,450
Acceptance rate for the Class of 2019: 6.99 percent
Policy: Families making less than $54,000 a year don't pay tuition, room, or board, and families making less than $120,000 a year don't pay tuition.

2. Brown

Tuition for 2015-16: $48,272
Acceptance rate for the Class of 2019: 8.5 percent
Policy: Families making less than $60,000 don't pay tuition, room, or board.

3. Cornell

Tuition for 2015-16: $48,880 
Acceptance rate for the Class of 2019: 14.9 percent
Policy: Families making less than $60,000 don't pay tuition, room, or board.

4. Columbia

Tuition for 2014-15: $51,108
Acceptance rate for the Class of 2019: 6.1 percent
Policy: Families making less than $60,000 don't pay tuition, room, or board.

5. Duke

Tuition for 2015-16: $47,650
Acceptance rate for the Class of 2019: 11.3 percent
Policy: Families making less than $60,000 don't pay tuition, room, or board.

6. Harvard

Tuition for 2015-16: $45,278
Acceptance rate for the Class of 2019: 5.3 percent
Policy: Families making less than $65,000 a year don't pay tuition, room, or board.

7. Yale

Tuition for 2015-16: $47,600
Acceptance rate for the Class of 2019: 6.5 percent
Policy: Families making less than $65,000 a year don't pay tuition, room, or board.

8. Stanford

Tuition for 2015-16: $45,729
Acceptance rate for the Class of 2019: 5.05 percent
Policy: Families making less than $65,000 a year don't pay tuition, room, or board, and families making between $65,000 and $125,000 a year don't pay tuition.

9. MIT

Tuition for 2015-16: $46,704 (includes mandatory fees)
Acceptance rate for the Class of 2019: 8 percent
Policy: Families making less than $75,000 a year don't pay tuition.

10. Dartmouth

Tuition for 2015-16: $48,120
Acceptance rate for the Class of 2019: 10.3 percent
Policy: Families making less than $100,000 don't pay tuition.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE