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Take that, Bernie: Private college will offer free tuition

(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Now that more states are offering free college tuition, private schools are feeling the pressure. On average, in-state tuition for public universities is almost $23,000 cheaper than private schools. Even students who go out of state save nearly $9,000 when choosing a public school over a private university.

Now that some states are offering free public college programs, many undergraduates are opting to go the cheaper route.

12 states are drafting legislation, and eight have already started various free college tuition programs. These low to no cost incentives are making it difficult for smaller private schools to compete.

One private school in Missouri is taking the “if you can’t beat them join them” approach. Fontbonne University is calling on its donors to meet the cost for incoming students, who the school deems qualify for their new free tuition program. Starting in the Fall of 2018, the Catholic university will evaluate incoming freshmen. To qualify, students’ financial aid forms must estimate that their family is unable to contribute to their tuition. Also, the student must be eligible for the Pell Grant. The Pell Grant is a federally subsidized grant given to students, whose families’ income is $50,000 or less. If a student meets the qualifications, they will receive free tuition under a new initiative called the Frontbone Promise.

Tuition, housing, and fees at Fontbonne University cost $38,880 per year. The maximum amount given per year by the Federal Pell Grant is $5,775. Fontbonne is asking individual donors to commit to paying $8,500 a year for a minimum of 5 years. The university will cover about $15,000 per year for each student, leaving a little over $9,000 that students would have to cover for room and board, that is, if they decide to live on campus.

Fontbonne President Mike Pressimone is asking that donors commit to 5 years of payments for the new program because he says that the students receiving the free ride may have multiple jobs or obligations that prevent them from finishing in four years.

If state colleges continue to offer no-cost college incentives, then private schools will likely have to come up with an economical way to compete. Ultimately, these college handouts fall on the American taxpayers and increase tuition to other students who do not qualify for the school’s free college programs.

New York recently took a page out of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) handbook and passed the Excelsior Scholarship, which grants free tuition to students enrolling in the state’s public universities. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) also created a free college alternative for private schools. However, only 29 out of 96 of the state’s private schools opted to offer the governor’s program.

Bernie Sanders introduced the College for All Act of 2017 in April. His bill would end tuition and fees for all students, whose families make less than $125,00 per year. Sanders’ legislation would also mandate that students of any income level could attend community colleges for free. If this passes, which is unlikely being that it has no Republican support and only 7 Democrat co-sponsors, it would cost the government $750 billion over 10 years.


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