Which colleges and universities are cutting prices or offering other deals for the upcoming academic year?

How will higher education make the upcoming academic year work?

discount_Mike Cohen credit score geekOne 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%.

(with help from Inside Higher Ed, Jason Jones; discount picture by Mike Cohen)

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19 Responses to Which colleges and universities are cutting prices or offering other deals for the upcoming academic year?

  1. Metropolitan State University in Minneapolis is offering students $25 off each class. Last summer I enrolled in a Sociology class never before offered online. I researched the professor and saw that they had been teaching for decades. Based on my experience, I dropped the class.
    Last Spring I enrolled in an online GE class I need. The professor spread the class information across multiple pages, required many pages of reading and restricted student’s posts to 200 words. As someone that has studied adult and online education for nearly a decade (in self defense) I concluded this professor was also an online first timer and dropped the class.
    I’m predicting half of American institutions of higher education will not survive Trump’s Pandemic. It will take the remaining institutions years to train their recalcitrant faculty to teach online.
    I’m available to teach computer basics and critical digital pedagogy, but I only have Associate’s degrees despite investing years of my life and hundreds of thousands of my own money in myself. I’m currently leading a small consulting firm into digital fluency and SaS office suites, saving them more than $20,000 a year. Too bad HE isn’t interested in my expertise.

    • Glen McGhee says:

      I am very interested in your experience (what concepts were taught? HOW were they taught???) re: ” Last summer I enrolled in a Sociology class never before offered online. I researched the professor and saw that they had been teaching for decades. Based on my experience, I dropped the class.” Thanks! Glen

      • Mark Corbett wilson says:

        Hi Glen
        I dropped the class before it started. Metro State has a small window for dropping classes.
        I’ve been watching the scramble to put classes online, I have several friends that are professors, and I have no confidence in the quality of the classes. Yes, it’s just one person’s anecdotes. Of the online classes I’ve taken for credit, at least half were outright academic fraud. I’m not giving back my degrees though.

        • Glen McGhee says:

          I really appreciate your reply. Thanks!

          I was wondering, how the heck can you teach sociology using online? I was very curious, because group dynamics, stratification, etc., are difficult enough to grasp outside most contexts, especially online.

          But I had to chuckle at your “Of the online classes I’ve taken for credit, at least half were outright academic fraud. ”
          Sad, but the problem is the lack of oversight and missing online accreditation standards. All this is now much worse, since the US Secretary has just waived online accreditation standards.

          • Mark Corbett wilson says:

            I have some ideas but, as a returned adult student and retired scientific glassblower, I find no one cares. I went back to a California Community College, after bad experiences trying to get into private universities, and found HE had regressed in the 25 years I had concentrated on my career. My focus now is adult learning in small non- and for-profit groups.

        • Glen McGhee says:

          I once met a scientific glassblower from Germany that was working in Michigan — he said that the US had no training programs for chemical and biological glassblowers — so, where did you get your initial glassblowing training and experience? Thanks!

          • Mark Corbett wilson says:

            I started offhand (art) glassblowing in a local community college after high school. Through an amazing series of coincidences I met a man that owned Glass Instruments, a scientific glass blowing shop in Pasadena. It took a few years but I finally convinced him to hire and train me. Laid off during one of the Reagan Recessions, I spent a year studying Manufacturing Engineering at Cal Poly and then moved to Silicon Valley to make LASERs, lamps, vacuum systems, and x-ray tubes. The Great Recession ended my career and I returned to college to update my skills. Worst experience of my life.

          • Glen McGhee says:

            Mark, What an interesting life path you have! I was not as lucky as you were.

            I have similar Recession experiences, differing only in that I graduated B.S. in math/philo during Oil Embargo turmoil, found refuge in graduate school (math), but again no one was hiring. Never saw a job ad for a math major. So, with no options, I went off to study theology at Yale Divinity School for 3 years. I graduated into another recession, eventually moved with my wife from the northeast during another recession to Florida, where she found work. I used my M. Div. to teach at a local CC for almost a decade. What an eye-opener that was!
            Those recessions are killers. Youth now are entering the abyss.

          • Glen McGhee says:

            I just noticed that, for both of us, college enrollment was a “gap year” phenomenon; it was more or less treading water until we found work.

            Historically, in fact, college began as a kind of gap-year finishing school for the upper-class, much like the Grand Tour of aristocrats. After that, they would settle down in their allotted adult roles.

            But now, the cultural understanding of college has changed, and although I think it nothing more than a contemporary myth, college has taken on the more functional meaning of training and occupational preparation. From what you’ve shared, the functionality for transitioning into work is more myth than reality for you as well.

    • Bryan Alexander says:

      Mark, are they offering a real discount or a climb-down from an increase?

      Here’s why I ask:

      • Mark Corbett wilson says:

        I checked and this semester’s tuition is only up $3, probably a use fee increase. Metro State doesn’t have an online differential, one of the reasons I chose them, in addition to their history as an original “University Without Walls.”
        The $25 discount is real, if pathetic.
        I stopped complaining about the $125+ in student fees, like parking, that a fully online student from the other side of the country will never use.

  2. Glen McGhee says:

    I find myself setting this *same* marker for future reference purposes — I have no idea how accurate it will be as a prediction, or even, what the actual content of this AS A prediction would be — “I’m predicting half of American institutions of higher education will not survive ….”

    But even with these caveats, what if it happens? What comes next, after we lose 50%?

    In ten years (the time it took for the job markets to recover reasonably from the financial collapse), what will (a futures question for Bryan) the occupational structure look like (CPAs have a new motto: 2020 is the new 2025);
    what will the hiring entail (assuming jobs come back)? Algorithms doing the hiring?
    Will the reign of micro-credentials have begun in 10 years?
    And will we also have hyper-stratification of academic credentials?

    Or — and this is where I place my HOPE in the FUTURE — will an alternative social institution emerge to replace the higher education sector? Are you with me?

    As A. F. C. Wallace pointed out, the disintegration of cultural mazeways can be followed by revitalization movements — thus preserving a cultural remnant, with luck.

    Otherwise, as Cory Doctorow is saying, we may have in Covid an extinction-level event, at least for the higher ed sector.

  3. Mark Nelson says:

    American University (where I teach) is also offering a tuition discount: “We are providing undergraduate and graduate students with an AU Community Care Fall Discount equivalent to 10 percent of fall tuition.”

    Source: https://www.american.edu/president/announcements/july-30-2020.cfm

  4. Tim says:

    In the era of tuition discounts though, what does this actually mean? An actual reduction for the students who can afford full tuition? Will financial aid packages be less generous as the sliding scale moves?

  5. Charles Morrissey says:

    Your BigRethink class final exam should project a view of higher education in 2025.
    What options will the traditional “college-bound” student have? Ideal document for
    their own career planning.

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