Princeton’s New Financial Aid Policy and What it Means for Accessibility

Colleges’ massive price tags, and the subsequently massive student debt that comes with it, have been important issues in America for decades. While in modern-day America many recognize education as a great equalizer, the institution itself is becoming increasingly elite price-wise. A new financial aid policy set to be rolled out by Princeton University in the fall of 2023 seeks to combat this. 

Princeton University is an elite Ivy League institution with an estimated cost of $79,540 per year before aid, according to the Princeton University Office of Undergraduate Admissions. However, due to one of the most robust grant programs in the nation, the average price after aid is actually around $13,600 according to CNBC. Princeton University does not offer merit-based scholarships, only need-based ones. Additionally, the university does not offer loans at all and instead only offers grants (which do not have to be repaid). According to the university, 82% of students graduate debt-free. Princeton’s financial aid system works by familial income bracket. Most students whose families earn up to $65,000 or less per year paid nothing in room and board, books, and tuition. However, financial aid is offered in varying amounts to students with family incomes of up to $300,000. 

Princeton’s new financial aid policy seeks to up the $65,000 cap to $100,000. This change means that around 25% of Princeton’s undergraduate class will be eligible for this policy. The previously standard student contribution of $3,500 per year will also be eliminated. For a more comprehensive understanding of the new policy vs. the old policy, take a look at Figure 1. 


Fig 1. (Princeton University, 2022)

However, does this shift in policy really make Princeton, an elite university, more accessible? According to the New York Times, not really. In a review on the economic diversity and student outcomes of Princeton University, the New York Times found that 72% of Princeton students come from families within the top 20% income-wise and that the average family income of Princeton students was $186,100 in 2017.


The answer does not lie in a single realm. The inaccessibility of elite universities and college as a whole is a product of not only unreasonable prices but also a ridiculously competitive admissions process that caters to the wealthy who can afford things like tutors and impressive extracurricular activities. 

Overall, while Princeton’s new financial aid policy is a step in the right direction, to make college accessible for everyone, much more is going to have to be changed.