How will higher education make the upcoming academic year work?
One strategy is to offer new financial inducements to attract enrollment. This is especially important for campuses concerned about losing students.
Such inducements can take several forms. One is as a discount*, price cut,
rebate, or scholarship. Another is to offer free classes or even semesters. More creative options may appear.
In this post I’d like to track some of these inducements. If this is useful for people, I’ll update it as things develop. Please feel free to add more information in comments.
UPDATED August 15 2020
- American University offers a tuition discount, “an AU Community Care Fall Discount equivalent to 10 percent of fall tuition.”
- Beloit College offers free tuition for undergraduates’ ninth and tenth semesters.
- Champlain College cut tuition by 17% – for adult learners in the local (Burlington) area.
- Clark Atlanta University cut tuition by 10%.
- The College of New Jersey offered cuts “of 3.5% for in-state undergraduates and 2.5% for out-of-state undergrads…”
- Georgetown University offers a 10% tuition cut for “students who are not invited back to campus.”
- Hampton University cut tuition and fees by 15% for fall 2020.
- Johns Hopkins University will discount tuition 10%.
- Lafayette College discounts tuition by 10% for off-campus students.
- Pacific Lutheran University revealed a tuition-free fifth year program.
- Paul Quinn College cut tuition down from “$8,321 to $5,996,” about 28%.
- Princeton University announced a 10% tuition cut.
- Rollins College now offers “a grant” of $2500 to students taking classes entirely online.
- Rowan University discounts 2020-2021 tuition by 10%.
- Rutgers University cut campus fees by 15% (see below for their tuition).
- St. Mary’s University (San Antonio) offered a 50% tuition break early in summer.
- St. Norbert College launched Norbert’s Ninth, a tuition-free semester for undergrads who meet certain conditions after four years.
- Southern New Hampshire University offered a range of cuts, including “a one-time ‘Innovation Scholarship‘ to all incoming campus freshmen which will cover 100% of first-year tuition” and an effort to “bring campus tuition down to $10,000 per year by 2021, a 61% reduction from its current rate.”
- Spelman College cut tuition by 10%.
- Thomas University offered a 30% break in May. I’m not sure if it’s still on; their Level Up program promises a discount, but doesn’t specify the amount.
- The University of Cincinnati cut residence life fees by 15%.
- The University of Mary Washington will refund some residential fees for on-campus students, as the first three weeks of fall term will be online.
- West Chester University cut tuition 11% for in-state, full time undergraduates.
- Williams College will cut tuition by 15%.
There are related precedents that applied to spring 2020. For example, Occidental College gave students the chance to apply for up to $1500 in CARES-funded relief for “expenses related to the disruption of the spring semester by the pandemic…”
Other campuses have refrained from cutting tuition, but they also decides not to increase it:
- The College of Charleston froze tuition.
- Kansas City University froze 2020-2021 tuition in April (still appears to be on, according to this recent article)
- Michigan State University will freeze tuition, according to local media.
- “Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Massachusetts and Pennsylvania State University have all announced a tuition freeze for the fall” (Daily Northwestern)
- Rutgers University froze tuition.
- Trinity College (Hartford) froze theirs.
- William & Mary University will “roll back a previously adopted tuition increase for incoming in-state undergraduates and keep tuition and mandatory fees flat for all students”
In contrast, some institutions have made a point of not discounting tuition:
- Louisiana State University, not for online classes.
- Northwestern University will increase tuition 3.5%.
- The University of North Carolina system campuses won’t offer any cuts.
- “the University of Pennsylvania, Villanova University, and Drexel… are sticking to previously planned tuition increases” (Philadelphia Inquirer)
So why does all of this matter?
This burst of freezing and discounting suggests a higher education sector that’s competing for students more aggressively. Which is not a surprise to anyone following stories of potential enrollment declines due to COVID-19.
Students may organize to put pressure on administrations for further cuts. Additionally, Lilah Burke notes that there was substantial downward pressure on tuition before the pandemic broke out. COVID accelerates this.
Tuition discounts, freezes, and other ways of reducing student payments are on the table now. How many campuses will enact them?
*Here I mean “discount” in addition to the normal tuition discounting American colleges and universities tend to do. That’s when they publish a certain tuition amount (sticker price), then use a variety of tools to cut down the actual price charged in order to attract certain students. Last year the average discount rate was around 50%.