With the economy still tough on many people, at least Colorado State University is offering a plan with some hope. In an effort to get more in-state residents thinking about going to college at campuses in Fort Collins or Pueblo, CSU is giving half-off tuition to middle-class undergraduate students whose families earn up to $57,000 a year (via the Coloradoan). Even better, students falling into the lowest income tier will be able to attend for free.

Governor Bill Ritter, a CSU grad, says affordable, high-quality education was “the key to my success. It is the key to Colorado’s future, and we need to use that key to keep the doors of opportunity wide open to all Coloradans” (via The Associated Press).

The CSU system will pay for the program by cutting $30 million in expenses from the $130 million a year in state aid, while employees enter a third year without raises. CSU projects that about 3,700 students, or 21 percent of undergraduates, will receive free or half-price tuition by fall 2011, notes Westword.

CSU was founded in 1862, after President Abraham Lincoln signed the “Land-Grant Act” with the hope that every potentially able and driven student would attend a university and earn a degree, writes the Rocky Mountain Collegian. CSU officials see the latest push as the college’s 21st-century version of Lincoln’s commitment.