New program offers some Miami freshmen free tuition

Kate Bigam

Anyone who has ever wished the cost of education was free – and who hasn’t wished that, really? – will see their wildest dream come true in the fall of 2007, but it won’t be at Kent State.

In his state of the university address on Aug. 18, Miami President David Hodge announced that 125 to 150 incoming freshmen with financial needs will receive free tuition starting in Fall 2007.

The Miami Access Initiative program will allow Ohio residents with family incomes of $35,000 or less to attend Miami tuition-free for up to four years, according to the program’s Web site.

The university will pay for any tuition fees not covered by other grants or scholarships a student receives, said Chuck Knepfle, director of student financial assistance at Miami. All qualifying full-time freshmen attending the Oxford campus in the fall of 2007 are eligible to receive funding from the initiative.

“Miami’s been focusing a lot of efforts the last couple years on diversifying the student body, not only from a racial and ethnic point of view, but also from an economic one,” Knepfle said.

The initiative will be funded by $10 million left to Miami by alumna Lois K. Klawon, who died in 2005 and wanted the money to be used to help needy students at her alma mater, Knepfle said.

In his address, Hodge explained the importance of helping students from low-income families receive a college education.

“Miami can and must do more to help Ohio students prepare for college. Miami can and must do more to help Ohio students of all economic classes find the means to attend Miami,” he said. “It is part of our responsibility as a public university.”

Knepfle said the initiative, proposed in July, is based on similar financial aid programs at other universities.

“We want everyone who graduates from high school to think, ‘Hey, I could go to Miami,'” Knepfle said. “They might not want to go to Miami, but we want it to be an option.”

Kent State’s director of student financial aid, Mark Evans, said although free tuition is not currently available to students at the university, he is paying close attention to programs like Miami’s.

“Obviously, we’re monitoring the new initiatives, and we’re reviewing them to see: Would a program like this work at Kent State University?” Evans said.

He estimated eight in 10 Kent State students are eligible to receive some sort of financial aid, whether it be in grants, loans, scholarships or work-study employment.

Constance Dubick, associate director of student financial affairs, said Kent State offers outreach and counseling programs to students in need of financial assistance.

“We make a real effort to make that interpersonal connection and talk to students and their parents,” Dubick said. She described financial aid at Kent State as a “high-tech, high-touch” department devoted to educating students about their financial options.

Evans said he urges students to contact the financial aid office to find out what financial help they are eligible for.

“We’re really here to help serve students,” he said. “These are some challenging times, with fee increases.”

Contact administration reporter Kate Bigam at [email protected].


Miami isn’t the first university to announce programs that make a college education more affordable for needy students. Nationwide, universities are creating programs to accommodate students of all income levels.

“We are telling students that college is affordable, no matter how much money your family makes,” said James Moeser, chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, when he announced the school’s Carolina Covenant in 2003.

Take a look at how Miami, UNC and other national universities are making college more affordable.

• University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Carolina Covenant – The program requires students to work in federal work-study jobs for 10 to 12 hours per week while the university foots the rest of the bill, the program’s Web site says. In the covenant’s first year, 225 freshmen were able to attend UNC tuition free.

• University of Minnesota’s Founders Opportunity Program – Under this new program, which was introduced in February, students receiving federal Pell grants are eligible to have those grants matched by the university. According to the program’s Web site, two-thirds of students eligible for Pell grants are from families with incomes of less than $50,000.

n University of Virginia’s AccessUVa – Every year, the university allots $20 million to be put into need-based grants for low-income students. Any student whose family makes double the national poverty average or less is eligible to receive AccessUVa funds.

• Michigan State’s Spartan Advantage – Introduced this fall, the new program covers all schooling expenses, including room, board and books, for students whose family income is below the national poverty level, the Web site says. According to the July press release announcing the program, Michigan’s student financial aid costs will increase by 8.5 percent to accommodate the program.

Kate Bigam