Students attending the University of Akron will be receiving a double break with the fall 2021-22 academic year: they will have their tuition costs frozen at 2020 levels, and all of them will be receiving a rare 30% discount on housing costs.
The university, which saw a slight reduction in enrollment from 2019 to 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic and had to raise tuition 2% last year after state budget cuts, says it is putting student needs first in its latest outreach efforts. The overall cost savings when also factoring in other expenses will be around 9%.
“The University of Akron is a university of opportunity,” said President Gary Miller. “We realize that many families continue to suffer from the economic ramifications of the pandemic. We are dedicated to doing all that we can to make higher education as accessible as possible for both current and incoming students. We also want them to enjoy living on campus and truly experiencing all that UA has to offer.”
Tuition costs and housing expenses both hover just above $11,000 for in-state residents but with the new discount, students will be able to shave off about $2,500 from the cost of living on campus. Though the university has waived mandatory housing for freshmen as well for the upcoming year, students may be more inclined to take advantage of the new offer.
Akron could have opted to follow the guidance of the Inter-University Council of Ohio (IUC), which recommended that undergraduate tuition could increase to a maximum of 3.8% for the fall. But the university felt that wouldn’t be prudent for any of its campuses, given the fallout from the pandemic.
“We value our students and realize that college affordability is something we must examine,” said Miller. “We think this is a step in the right direction.”
Despite dire predictions last year that enrollments would plummet among all institutions, colleges and universities mostly did well to come close to hitting their targets in 2020-21. The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center noted a 2.5% decline overall. However, first-year student enrollment was way down, especially those from low-income backgrounds, and auxiliary budgets struggled.
Though Akron and others have taken a stance on freezing or lowering tuition – and in Akron’s case lowering housing, too – many institutions may not have that luxury.
This year, Michigan State University could only allow 4,000 of a potential 16,000 students to live in campus housing and experienced an 80% decline in revenue in residential and hospitality services, according to the on-campus State News. Making that difference up is nearly impossible given the tight margins in other areas across campus – including increased expenses because of COVID-19.
In December 2020, the university decided to make it mandatory for both first- and second-year students to live in campus housing. And it performed a study that backed that decision – saying that those who do spent two years in on-campus residences enjoy a 2.5% increase in graduation rates, with some performing even better academically.
For in-state students, that means having to pay $14,500 for tuition and other $10,500 and room and board, though financial aid packages certainly lessen the burden.
East Tennessee State University found itself in a similar spot in 2020-21 after experiencing a nearly $5 million shortfall in housing revenue, according to WJHL.com. Like some other universities – including a few that say they will consider it this fall – ETSU charged students double to be housing in single rooms during the pandemic.
And a few other universities have decided not to raise tuition or housing costs. Purdue University will keep its streak of nine consecutive academic years without a tuition hike for 2021-22 at all of its campus. It is also maintaining its room and board rates from 2020. Combining cost, the total comes to around $20,000 (without financial aid), which is lower than the cost of attending a decade ago.
“We don’t want to make room and board expense a barrier for our students and their families, so keeping the rate as low as possible – without sacrificing excellence – is the right thing to do,” trustees chair Michael Berghoff said.