Tuition Cuts and Tuition Resets

on May 8, 2017

Each year, about a dozen colleges cut their tuition rates instead of increasing them. These aren’t small tuition cuts, but rather much bigger tuition resets, typically by 20 percent to 35 percent, as these colleges move away from the high-price, high-aid pricing model. Often, the tuition cuts roll back a decade of tuition increases.

 

Tuition resets are designed to be dramatic. Some involve a large percentage reduction in tuition or cut tuition by a large dollar amount (e.g., by $10,000). Some of the cuts are intended to drop tuition below a psychological threshold, such as just under a round number.

 

The more dramatic the tuition cut, the better the headline. Tuition cuts are intended to generate publicity for the college, so that the college can compensate for the decrease in tuition revenue by increasing total enrollment.

 

Although families are attracted by the novelty and magnitude of a tuition reset, the actual financial benefit for students could be much smaller. Tuition resets usually roll back spending on financial aid in addition to cutting tuition and fees. Thus, the reduction in net price could be much smaller than the sticker price cuts. Also, tuition cuts usually are not accompanied by cuts in room and board charges.

 

For example, when Converse College cut tuition and fees from $29,124 in 2013-2014 to $16,500 in 2014-2015, a $12,624 decrease, the average net price decreased by only $504 from $17,826 to $17,322. Nevertheless, the net price for low-income students decreased by $2,680, making the college much more affordable for low-income students.

 

Tuition resets are one-time events, sometimes phased in over a two-year period. Most colleges return to the normal cycle of annual tuition increases in subsequent years. Some follow the tuition cut with a tuition freeze.

 

The colleges that are most likely to benefit from a tuition reset include those with a high discount rate who have excess capacity. These colleges hopes to increase enrollment, especially among higher-income students, without big changes in selectivity. In most cases these colleges compete for students regionally, as opposed to nationally. Deciding whether to pursue a tuition reset requires significant modeling of the price sensitivity of prospective students.

 

This table lists all colleges that had tuition resets since 1987, based on data from institutional press releases and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Colleges that eliminated tuition entirely by implementing free tuition policies are not included. Tuition cut percentages are calculated as compared with the previous year’s published tuition and fees.

 

School

Limitations

Tuition Cut

Year of Cut

Abilene Christian University (TX) 

1 program

50%

2003-2004

Alaska Pacific University (AK)

 

34.2%

2014-2015

Albertson College (ID)

 

30%

2003-2004

Ashland University (OH)

 

33.5%

2014-2015

Ava Maria University (FL)

 

22%

2014-2015

Avila University (MO)

 

33%

2018-2019

Belmont Abbey College (NC)

 

33.0%

2013-2014

Bethany College (WV)

 

42%

2002-2003

Birmingham-Southern College (AL)

 

51%

2018-2019

Blackburn College (IL)

 

15%

2008-2009

Bluefield College (VA)

 

24%

1998-1999

Boston Baptist College (MA)

 

15.1%

2015-2016

Brewton-Parker College (GA)

 

19.5%

2011-2012

Burlington College (VT)

 

25%

2012 (Summer)

Cabrini University (PA)

 

12.5%

2012-2013

Central Washington University (WA)

 

15.0%

2016-2017

Cleveland Institute of Music (OH)

 

15%

2018-2019

College of Mount Saint Vincent (NY)

Followed by a 56% increase

28.1%

2015-2016

College of Saint Mary (NE)

 

33%

2017-2018

College of William & Mary (VA)

 

20%

1999-2000

Concordia University (MN)

 

33.7%

2013-2014

Converse College (SC)

 

43.3%

2014-2015

Cornerstone University (MI)

 

11%

2018-2019

Davis College (NY)

 

13.8%

2011-2012

Drew University (NJ)

 

20%

2017-2018

Duquesne University (PA)

School of Education only

50%

2012-2013

Eastern Washington University (WA)

 

15.0%

2016-2017

Eureka College (IL)

 

30%

2004-2005

Everest University (FL, MO)

Various campuses owned by

Zenith Education Group

20%

2015-2016

Evergreen State College (WA)

 

15.0%

2016-2017

Harrison College (IN, OH, NC, online)

9 programs

10%

2013 (Winter)

Heidelberg College (OH)

 

28%

2002-2003

Immaculata University (PA)

 

23%

2017-2018

La Salle University (PA)

 

29%

2017-2018

Lesley University (MA)

 

24.7%

2014-2015

Lewis-Clark State College (ID)

 

15.3%

2016-2017

Lewis-Clark State College (ID)

After 49% increase

in 2014-2015

16.2%

2015-2016

Lincoln Christian University (IL)

 

19.6%

2015-2016

Lincoln College (IL)

 

23.9%

2012-2013

Marlboro College (VT)

 

8%

1999-2000

Mills College (CA)

 

36%

2018-2019

Muskingum College (OH)

 

29%

1996-1997

National Louis University (IL)

 

17.5%

2015-2016

National Louis University (IL)

 

19.2%

2014-2015

North Carolina Wesleyan College (NC)

 

23%

1996-1997

North Park University (IL)

 

30%

2005-2006

Ohio Northern University (OH)

 

23.6%

2014-2015

Pacific States University (CA)

 

17.1%

2014-2015

Paul Quinn College (TX)

 

38.1%

2015-2016

Penn Foster College (Online)

 

28%

2009-2010

Piedmont International University (NC)

 

25.3%

2014-2015

Pima Community College (AZ)

Out-of-state and

international only

14.7%

2016-2017

Pine Manor College (MA)

 

34%

1998-1999

Rosemont College (PA)

 

40.1%

2016-2017

Rutgers University – Camden (NJ)

Low- and middle-income

NJ residents only

50% or 100%

2016-2017

Saint Louis Christian College (MO)

 

47.7%

2013-2014

Seton Hall University (NJ)

 

61%

2012-2013

Sheldon Jackson College (AK)

 

42%

1998-1999

South Dakota Colleges (SD)

Out-of-state only

50%

2006-2007

Southern Virginia University (VA)

 

22.8%

2014-2015

St. Vincent’s College (CT)

 

12.3%

2015-2016

St. Vincent’s College (CT)

 

13.8%

2014-2015

Stephen F. Austin State University (TX)

 

15.0%

2015-2016

Stillman College (AL)

 

34.3%

2015-2016

Sweet Briar College (VA)

 

32%

2018-2019

Thiel College (PA)

 

27%

1998-1999

University of Charleston (WV)

 

21.8%

2012-2013

University of North Texas (TX)

OK residents only

45.5%

2015-2016

University of Southern Mississippi (MS)

Out-of-state only

40%

2017-2018

University of the Sciences (PA)

 

37%

2018-2019

University of the South / Sewanee (TN)

 

10.0%

2011-2012

University of Virginia (VA)

 

20%

1999-2000

University of Washington (WA)

 

10.0%

2016-2017

Utica College (NY)

 

42.0%

2016-2017

Waldorf College (IA)

 

30%

1987-1988

Washington State University (WA)

 

10.0%

2016-2017

Wells College (NY)

 

30%

1999-2000

Western Washington University (WA)

 

15.0%

2016-2017

Westminster College (MO)

 

20%

2003-2004

Wilberforce University (OH)

 

11.0%

2015-2016

William Peace University (NC)

 

7.7%

2012-2013

Wilmington College (OH)

 

15.9%

2015-2016

Wilson College (PA)

 

17.0%

2014-2015

 

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