The truth is, only a small percentage of its students are given free tuition. Middle-class students still have to take out loans, and with tuition around $35,000 a year, this often results in significant debt. It's great that valedictorians with low income can attend Davidson for free, but why should middle-class students with the same achievements have to graduate with $60,000+ in debt? It's not like the degree is going to allow them to make back that kind of money anytime soon.
Davidson College has a much smaller endowment than most Ivy Leagues, and 45.1 % of its students are receiving free or discounted tuition right now. These tuition discounts are funded by its endowment, so there's no reason other schools with much more money couldn't follow suit.
Why don't elite universities make more room for students who can't afford $30,000 a year tuition? Why don't they just make tuition cheaper overall, and cut out this whole grant-giving process?
Well, college isn't really the stepping-stone that we pretend it is, in America. Admissions data at the richest colleges in the nation suggest that these schools are only increasing the income gap, not helping bright students make the best of themselves. Schools with the most money admit MORE underachieving students, but only if these students are rich and white. Back in 2008, "15 percent of freshmen enrolled at America's highly selective colleges are white teens who failed to meet their institutions' minimum admissions standards." So, the schools that could afford to admit the most students in need, are instead choosing to give those spots to privileged young people who have already squandered many of the advantages life has offered them.
Way to go, American dream.