The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign announced Monday that it will offer free tuition to qualifying students starting fall 2019. But there’s a catch: it is for students whose combined household income is $61,000 or less and you must be a freshman or a transfer student. The university has said that they hope the program, called Illinois Commitment, helps make receiving an education more affordable and attainable for students. According to the university’s website, a student qualifies for free tuition if they meet the following criteria:
They are an Illinois resident (parents listed on FAFSA must also be residents).
Their family income is $61,000 or less.
Their family’s assets are less than $50,000.
They are admitted as a new freshman or transfer student.
They are under the age of 24.
At a cost of four million a year, U of I will pay for the program with existing funds. According to Robert J. Jones, Chancellor at U of I, the university has the revenue to offer free tuition for at least 4 years. The university hopes the second wave of financing will come from philanthropy. Jones is also hoping alumni step up with financial contributions.
The program does not, however, cover room and board, summer and winter classes, studying abroad, books and other charges and fees. According to the WGN News website, the university said the move is part of their “mission as a land-grant institution.”
So, what does this mean for the students at the University of St. Francis? “I would obviously love to have free tuition. I think it would attract a lot of new people to the campus, which would be amazing. Our school could get larger, and I think it would make things more interesting. I definitely think U of I is taking a step in the right direction,” says junior Isabel Jimenez. On the other hand, President of the University of St. Francis Arvid Johnson says, “The reality is that the UIUC approach is highly restrictive and will impact a very small percentage of its students. On the other hand, and in addition to offering similar programs (through our Give Something Back Foundation (GSBF) program and our Multicultural Education Recruitment in Teaching (MERIT) program to similarly-qualified students, the University of St. Francis regularly provides financial assistance to over 95% of all incoming undergraduate students.” Johnson also says, “We often say that at USF, you can receive a private-college experience (small class sizes, faculty who know you) for a public-college price. Especially once you consider the substantially-higher completion rates for USF vis- a-vis our public counterparts, we are confident that we provide a substantial value-added collegiate experience to students.”
Whether it’s the students or the president of the university, the free-tuition debate is one that has caused debates on campuses nationwide.
For more information about U of I’s free tuition plan, visit https://admissions.illinois.edu/commitment