Colgate: Free tuition to students whose families earn less than $80K

The university is aiming to improve access and affordability to those from lower- and middle-income backgrounds.
By: | June 2, 2021
Photo courtesy of Colgate University

Colgate University is eliminating tuition costs for the Class of 2026 for families whose income falls below $80,000 and is also expanding help for those students whose households bring in less than $150,000.

As part of its new Colgate Commitment: An Initiative in Access and Affordability, the university is taking the bold step to assist both lower-income students and those from the middle class in an effort to be accessible to a more diverse pool of students.

“Families and their students need to know that the cost of a transformative education at Colgate is affordable,” said Dean of Admission Tara Bubble. “I hope this new commitment, along with its strong alumni support, shows that Colgate cares about attracting the best and brightest students regardless of their financial situation.”

That support will come early on from a combined $1 million gift from members of Colgate’s Alumni Council and Presidents’ Club, through the university Fund. To make the effort a long-term reality on a large scale, Colgate will be looking for another $25 million toward its endowment in the next three years.

Alumni are already touting the potential of the program.

“I can say without a doubt that increasing access to a Colgate education is an initiative that so many alumni are tremendously proud to support,” said Colgate Alumni Council President Christian B. Johnson ’02. “We know firsthand how Colgate can change lives, and now we are all part of a movement to make it even more affordable for generations to come.”

Vice President for Admission and Financial Aid Gary Ross (’77) said, “As an alumnus myself, I know what incredible opportunities await talented students at Colgate, and this commitment will absolutely increase access for anyone seeking small class sizes, tremendous research opportunities, and an unrivaled alumni network of career support.”

A number of private colleges and universities have taken steps to reach lower-income students by cutting tuition and fees and providing more aid. A few like Brown, Duke, Harvard, and Stanford have made commitments similar to Colgate’s. Colgate says it will be spending $68.8 million on financial aid for the 2021/2022 fiscal year.

The goal of those efforts is to give students incentives to apply to institutions they might believe are out of reach financially because of net costs. Although room and board and other fees are still considerations, free tuition can be enough to get students to apply.

At Colgate, the initiative goes beyond the lowest-income families. The university says students whose families earn between $80,000 and $125,000 “will pay, on average, just 5% of their income toward tuition.” Those with incomes between $125,000 and $150,000 will pay 10%. Assets may be a factor, though Colgate says those that are “typical” for those brackets should not affect tuition outcomes.

Colgate’s no-loan initiative (replacing federal grants with university aid) began last year for those with incomes less than $125,000 and led to increased interest in the university. Officials note that there was a 104% increase in applications for the Class of 2025.