The University of Illinois is getting in on the “free tuition” game: as reported by NBC Chicago, incoming students from families with less than the Illinois median income (now $61,000) and assets of less than $50,000 (excluding home equity and retirement accounts) will be eligible for free tuition and fees, so long as their family income stays within 10% of the threshold in place at time of admission.
If your family income is $61,001 or if your family has assets of $50,001, no dice. You’re left with the standard financial aid options. If your family income drops below $61,000 (or the equivalent threshold in the future) while you’re a student, you can’t receive the benefit.
Where does the money come from? The university’s website doesn’t say, nor does a Tribune article on the plan, which reports that the program will cost $4 million per year, presumably a smaller figure than it otherwise would be because a sizable number of affected students are already getting financial aid. Perhaps that’s a drop in the bucket, as the overall budget for the three-university system is $6.5 billion. Doing some quick additional digging, in 2015, the budget specifically for the Urbana Champaign campus was $2 billion, and tuition revenue was $682 million, or 33% of the total. Ignoring the increases since then, the proposed cost of this new program is 0.6% of the total; one presumes that, when all the calculations are said and done, this new program will result in net tuition for everyone else being 0.6% higher than it otherwise would have been. Maybe that’s small enough that tuition-payers shouldn’t begrudge the increase, if it benefits a worthy group of students.
Image: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Main Library. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AMainLibrary_Urbana_Illinois_4582.jpg; By Dori (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 us (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/us/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons