Expect applications to Stanford university to soar with this announcement: Tuition free for Families Earning Less than $125,000 Per Year.

Stanford University will provide free tuition to parents of students who earn less than $125,000 per year — and if they make less than $65,000, they won’t have to contribute to room and board costs, either.

Students are still expected to pay $5,000 toward college costs from summer earnings and working part-time while enrolled in college.

If a student’s parents make less than $125,000 per year, and if they have assets of less than $300,000, excluding retirement accounts, the parents won’t be expected to pay anything toward their children’s Stanford tuition. Families with incomes lower than $65,000 won’t have to contribute to room and board, either.

Students themselves will have to pay up to $5,000 each year from summer earnings, savings, and part-time work. There’s no rule that parents can’t cover their students’ required contribution.

Why other colleges can’t do this — but what they can learn

Stanford enrolls a high proportion of wealthy students, who pay higher tuition that helps subsidize lower-income peers. And Stanford is one of the world’s richest universities, with an endowment of $21 billion.

On the other hand, there’s something that every college could emulate about Stanford’s policy: it’s incredibly simple and straightforward.

Middle-class students know even before they apply to Stanford what they’ll have to pay to attend, whether they’ll be able to afford it, and how much they’ll have to borrow. At most colleges, the amount a family is expected to pay doesn’t show up until after students have applied, been accepted, and filled out financial aid paperwork. That’s partly because many colleges are stretching their financial aid budgets and don’t know what they’re dealing with until students have been admitted.

Most colleges can’t match Stanford’s generous financial aid commitment. But they could at least try to duplicate its simplicity.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock