Affirmative action, you will be missed

Financial aid isn’t a substitute for affirmative action.

Princeton University announced next fall tuition will be free to incoming students whose households earn $100,000 or less a year. This is a substantial increase from its current threshold for full financial support of tuition and board, which is $65,000. Additionally, under next year’s new system, Princeton will offer aid to students from families earning up to $300,000 annually.

It’s unfortunate such a level of financial support couldn’t realistically be expected from post-secondary institutions in Canada. The majority of Canadian universities are publicly funded, meaning they rely on provincial governments to direct financial resources towards them.

Ontario universities in particular have complained of being underfunded.

Education is paramount to upwards social mobility, yet the increasing cost of living is making its pursuit more unattainable. Many high or steadily paying careers require individuals have university educations in order to apply. Obstructing access to post-secondary education can feed into existing racialized class hierarchies, separated by generational wealth.

Increasing the accessibility of any post-secondary education is a step in the right direction. Facilitating access to Princeton in particular, given its status as an Ivy League university, could be a life-changing opportunity for countless applicants.

Offering free tuition will likely motivate students who could otherwise never even consider Princeton as a possibility to apply—benefitting individual applicants as well as the university.

Since the United States Supreme Court suspended affirmative action earlier this year, encouraging and facilitating the application of diverse groups of students to university is more important than ever before.

In the absence of affirmative action—particularly at distinguished and inaccessible schools like Princeton—the diversity of student populations could easily backslide.

Enabling more students to apply will equally benefit Princeton by making the application process even more competitive, further exacerbating the university’s prestige.

This increased prestige and competition, though, could neutralize the benefits the new financial aid plan offers.

The more competitive a university’s application process becomes, the more effort high school students will have to devote to preparing.

That level of time-commitment isn’t a viable option for students who have to work outside of school to support themselves or their families, meaning students coming from less economically privileged families will be disadvantaged.

Princeton estimates their new plan will help fund tuition for a quarter of their students. The possibility remains, though, Princeton might prefer to admit students who wouldn’t cost them money to admit. Aiming to accept a certain percentage of students who fit into this economic bracket would bolster the equitable enforcement of this new financial plan.

Hopefully the threshold for free tuition can be an ever evolving and increasing number at Princeton and all other post-secondary institutions to properly reflect the importance of equitable, accessible education.

—Journal Editorial Board


Affirmative Action, Education

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