February 20, 2008
Today’s news that Stanford University plans, at long last, to waive tuition for students from lower and middle income families is so overdue, so incredibly overdue, the appropriate response is not “right on!” but “what on earth took them so long?”
Along with many others, I started pushing for this morally imperative move more than a decade ago.
Stanford’s decision to finally do the right thing comes so late as to be a permanent embarrassment. Let’s remember that it comes after Harvard and many other top colleges made similar changes in policy and after a U.S. Senator, a Republican at that, indicated he might hold hearings on the students-last endowment management policies at institutions such as Stanford. Facing competitive pressures for the best students, and a possible Senate hearing that would have been highly embarrassing, Stanford finally caved in and did what it should have done decades ago.
In each of the essays I’ve written on this topic I asked a variation on the following question: “How much money does Stanford, and similar private schools, feel they need to have in their endowments before they will be willing to spend some of that money to provide free educational opportunities to the needy students whose faces are used on their fund raising brochures?”
Apparently the correct answer was $17.1 billion.