As colleges grapple with declining enrollment, some are lowering tuition in hopes that a smaller sticker price will help attract additional applicants. According to The Hechinger Report, the changes reflect “market forces finally coming to bear on college costs,” whose recent growth has far outpaced price increases for other services.
Private colleges matching public prices
Whereas in the past, many families equated high prices with high quality, recent research from student loan provider Sallie Mae shows that families are now less likely to have that perception than they were in 2008. The shift has especially struck a chord with private colleges, which are more likely to seem unaffordable and inaccessible to lower-income students.
To avoid deterring prospective applicants, a growing number of private colleges are implementing price-match guarantees, reports The Wall Street Journal. Oglethorpe University, a private liberal arts college near Atlanta, Georgia, whose current tuition costs $39,300, has announced plans to match the in-state tuition of the flagship university in students’ state of residency. Oglethorpe, which will launch the program in 2019, could find itself matching tuition ranging from $5,500 (University of Wyoming) to $18,499 (University of New Hampshire), Forbes reports.
“Many students and their families believe they must attend a large state school because they can’t afford a private college education,” Oglethorpe President Larry Schall told the Atlanta Business Chronicle, adding “We want to change those misconceptions.”
Tuition cuts picking up steam, but will they actually change what families pay?
Private colleges aren’t alone in reducing tuition, The Hechinger Report says, pointing to a number of public universities that have similarly slashed their sticker prices. But it remains unclear how much these pricing campaigns will actually change what families pay, given that after scholarships and other aid, most students don’t pay sticker price.
Some experts caution, meanwhile, that even if tuition reductions produce meaningful benefits, they have their limits. “You have to have a good story to tell the market,” Utica College President Laura Casamento told The Hechinger Report. “If price is your only story, that’s not a good recipe for success.”