More state universities are beginning to respond to rising tuition burdens on families by offering more financial aid -- and in some cases, free -- tuition.
The University of Michigan (U-M) is the latest state university to roll out a free tuition plan, called the "Go Blue Guarantee." Launching next January, it will guarantee students from a family with income below $65,000 a year free tuition for up to four years.
"Today, our long-standing commitment to ensuring that qualified students from Michigan can afford a U-M education becomes a guarantee," said U-M President Mark Schlissel.
Eliminates some of the complexities
Schlissel says the guarantee eliminates a lot of the complexities found in financial aid. If a family of an accepted student qualifies, the student pays no tuition
"I have always believed that talent is ubiquitous in our society, but opportunity most certainly is not," Schlissel said. "The 'Go Blue Guarantee' helps us ensure wider opportunity."
U-M says the new aid package is a way it can help meet the financial needs of in-state students who have the grades to attend the university but not the money. The school says the program is not taking any money away from existing financial aid packages.
The "Go Blue Guarantee" will be available to students whose families fall within the income limits, and also are below a certain net worth threshold. Qualifying students also may be eligible for additional aid to cover non-tuition costs.
New York's free tuition program
In April, New York announced its own free tuition plan. The state legislature approved funding to provide free tuition to students attending CUNY and SUNY, as long as their families earn less than $100,000 a year.
Qualifying students must attend school full-time and average 30 credits each year, including summer and winter classes. They will also be required to maintain a passing grade point average to be eligible for free tuition.
There is an additional condition as well. Upon ending their education, they will be required to live and work in the state for the same number of years they received the financial aid.
The financial aid program called the “Excelsior Scholarship” will be available to students starting school this fall, as long as their families make under $100,000 per year. The income threshold will increase to $110,000 in 2018 and $125,000 in 2019.
According to the College Board, the average cost of tuition and fees for the 2016–2017 school year was $9,650 for in-state students across the U.S.