Liberty and Justice for All: The future of elite college admissions is here


Courtesy of the New York Times

The price of admission for colleges like Columbia are not affordable for most people

As a young kid, I dreamed of going to Columbia University. Ivy League prestige, in the middle of Manhattan — it seemed perfect. The only problem then? $61,671. That is the tuition required to attend Columbia. For just one year. Even with some financial aid, for many lower and middle-class families, that is a struggle, at best, to make work.

The only problem now? Actually, there isn’t one. No mind-boggling tuition. No financial hardship to get a top-tier education. Nothing.

How is this possible? Did Bernie Sanders go back in time to win the presidency and make college free? Nope. Columbia just did the right thing.

On April 26, seemingly out of nowhere, Columbia made a post to their website and sent out an email. Tuition, they announced, would be free for all families with an income of $150,000 or less, well above most universities’ cutoff for an automatic full-ride.

I saw this as a game-changer for college admissions, especially at the elite level. For those hoping to attend Columbia, it’s suddenly more attainable. For those hoping to go to another Ivy League-caliber institution, the pressure is now on for other top colleges to meet the new Columbia standard. Already, Dartmouth College followed suit, also making tuition free for most working and middle class families.

Columbia University has an endowment of $14.35 billion. That’s a whole lot of money in reserve, which the school can use for anything it wants. Now, Columbia is choosing to make a top tier education financially attainable for so many more young scholars. In doing so, it’s raising the standard of what we can expect from elite universities in 2022.

With American wealth inequality among the worst it has ever been, those in our society with huge amounts of money — including top universities — will need to help redistribute funds in order to keep the economy working for as many people as possible. This is the future of elite college admissions: complete financial backing for anyone who is a strong enough student to earn admission.

As more and more colleges recognize this as the right way to use their excess funds, more and more students will get to fulfill their dreams. It doesn’t have to be only top schools, either: many large state schools have billions of dollars endowed. Eventually, we can aspire to have free college for every person. For now, Columbia has led us forward with a big step towards liberty and justice for all.