In recent years, some private colleges have begun slashing tuition rates for their undergraduate students, some by up to 50 percent. In the higher education world, these dramatic drops are called “tuition resets.” Reasons for resets are as individual as the colleges themselves, but generally colleges cut tuition to be transparent about fees and to attract more students, reported a 2015 analysis by economist Lucie Lapovsky on eight colleges that reset tuition.
According to Paul Hassen, director of communications and marketing at the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU), a tuition reset is one tool among many used to recruit students to apply.
Private colleges have long offered qualifying students discounts in the form of scholarships or grants, and most families don’t pay “sticker price.” But determining in advance what a college might offer can be complicated, and 65 percent of students eliminate colleges based on published price without further research, revealed a 2018 Sallie Mae survey, How America Values College. Colleges know determining net price is complex. A tuition reset strategy communicates transparency and affordability to families. Since 2015, some 23 colleges have reset tuition, according to NAICU, with five more reducing tuition for 2019-20.
With a lower published tuition price, however, colleges award financial aid at a correspondingly lower rate. Makes sense, right? Lower cost equals less need. For a full-pay student, a tuition reset helps enormously. However, students who qualify for aid likely won’t see the same advertised reduction. “Lower-income students are already getting the best price the college can offer after financial aid is applied,” Hassen said. Remember, too, a tuition reset isn’t a tuition freeze. Expect tuition to increase incrementally each year. Also, other costs, such as room and board and mandatory fees, could increase.
Here’s a list of 15 private colleges with recently reduced tuition.