How colleges are fighting decadelong tuition hikes

One state university has found a way to provide free tuition for local residents
By: | October 25, 2019
Even though large state cuts in higher ed funding have contributed to tuition increases, schools such as Wayne State University are still able to provide free college tuition.gettyimages.com: ikryannikovgmailcom

Over the past decade, large state cuts in higher ed funding have contributed to tuition increases. In seven states, published tuition has risen over 60%, and it has more than doubled at Louisiana’s four-year schools, according to a new analysis.

Northern Vermont University will raise fall semester room and board fees by 2.9%, as reported by Basement Medicine, NVU’s student-run publication. 

“When the initial numbers were recommended, we were thinking in the range of 4%,” NVU President Elaine Collins told Basement Medicine. “We were trying to figure out how to keep the costs down for students, and we are still looking into other ways of doing that, like open source materials, for example. But we thought it wouldn’t be fair to go above the cost of living increase.”

Meanwhile, Michigan recently eliminated a tuition grant that provided up to $2,400 per year to students at private higher ed institutions, leaving these students in limbo, reported MLive

Conversely, Wayne State University, also in Michigan, will provide free college tuition for admitted Detroit residents and graduates of Detroit high schools who enroll as full-time freshmen in fall 2020, the university announced. Since 2011, Wayne State has partnered with the Detroit Regional Chamber to offer scholarships to unlimited Detroit students.


From UB: The case for price transparency


In California, the San Diego Community College District hopes to sustain a free college tuition program for the 2019-20 academic year through a fundraising event, reported KUSI News. The program covers tuition and fees for two years for first-time full-time students, as well as book grants, counseling and education support.

To end its pattern of annually raising tuition over two decades, the University of South Carolina plans to tap into new money sources—such as research funding, donations, military contracts and grants—reported The State. Recently, President Bob Caslen began discussing possible military contracts with U.S. Army Cyber Command, which he helped found while superintendent of U.S. Military Academy.

More transparency of tuition increases

Colleges need to improve transparency to help prevent first-generation and lower-income students from dropping out due to a lack of clarity of unexpected tuition increases, Vice President for Strategic Enrollment Management Jason Reinoehl of the University of Dayton wrote in an op-ed for University Business

After the Ohio university created a fixed net-price, no-fees plan in 2013, Dayton set a record six-year graduation rate of 81.5% and reduced student loan borrowing by $10 million this year. “We can better predict our tuition revenue and create stronger long-term financial plans,” he wrote. “As a result, revenue has remained strong at a time when many institutions across the Midwest have struggled.”


Resource: Tuition reset and reduction research

Related: Best practices for using financial responsibility agreements