New affordability promise helps families earning up to $200,000

Colorado College eases tuition concerns of middle-class families
By: | Issue: October, 2019
September 19, 2019
Easing tuition stress—Many Colorado College students are getting a big tuition break, thanks to support from a handful of donors.

Colorado College had a problem with sticker shock.

“A lot of families wouldn’t even consider us because of price,” says Vice President for Enrollment Mark Hatch. “We watched the pool of applicants from middle-class families dwindle and had a lower ‘take rate’ among admitted students.”

In an effort to make tuition more affordable for Colorado families, the private liberal arts college is introducing the Colorado Pledge. The pilot program, beginning in fall 2020, promises to cover tuition, room and board for entering students from Colorado families with annual adjusted gross incomes of less than $60,000. Tuition will be covered for families earning between $60,000 and $125,000. Families earning between $125,000 and $200,000 will be charged the equivalent of in-state tuition at the University of Colorado.

A growing number of higher ed institutions have made affordability promises. The University of Texas at Austin, University of Houston-Downtown and University of Wisconsin-Madison have also pledged to cover tuition and fees for students from middle-class families—though most set lower income limits than those established under the Colorado Pledge.

Karen McCarthy, director of policy analysis for the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, notes that some affordability pledges represent a shift in messaging—not new (or expanded) funding.

“Colleges use the language: ‘We meet full need,’ which might not mean much to families,” she says. Being precise about what specific income levels mean for tuition breaks helps families as they consider their options.

Colorado College secured $4 million in donor funds to launch the Colorado Pledge, and administrators have been engaging donors to raise an additional $16 million to endow the program. Hatch adds, “We want to raise visibility, awareness and buy-in that this is a really worthy goal.”