Why one state’s priciest school is cutting tuition in half

A 50% tuition drop, and another school's plan to move past "complex and confusing" pricing models

Alabama’s most expensive institutions, Spring Hill College, will chop tuition in half in an effort to become one of the more affordable private schools in the country.

Spring Hill College joins a growing number of institutions that are slashing tuition in efforts to maintain access and enrollment as students and families cope with the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Spring Hill College, a private Jesuit institution in Mobile, announced this week it will cut tuition by 50%, from $41,868 in 2020 to $21,100 in the fall of 2021. It will also reduce room and board by nearly $3,200.

At the same time, college leaders note the school has added new majors, launched the Center for Online Learning, and is planning facilities upgrades.

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In New Jersey, another private school, Rider University, announced that its Lifting Barriers program features a 22% tuition drop, from $45,120 in 2020-21 to $35,000 in 2021-22.

Rider’s leaders say their goal is to move past “complex and confusing” pricing models in which colleges and universities provide substantial discounts to high tuition rates.

“Rider’s goal is to provide greater clarity for those who assume a high-quality private education is not affordable or accessible based solely on the ‘sticker price,'” the university says on its website.

Matching state tuition

In Kentucky, Bellarmine University’s new Public Price Promise merit scholarship will offer students a tuition rate that matches the costs of attending the flagship university in their home state.

That means, for example, students from Kentucky would pay the University of Kentucky’s tuition, fees, room and board rates to attend Bellermine. This would cut tuition from over $40,000 to about $12,000.

Tuition reductions across the country are holding down inflation during the COVID crisis, Bloomberg reported. 

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The consumer price index for college tuition saw its biggest drop in more than 40 years in August, falling by 0.7%, according to Bloomberg.

Do tuition cuts actually work?

Yes, at least at Concordia University in St. Paul, Minnesota.

The school broke its own enrollment records this fall after a 2013 cut reduced tuition from $29,700 to $19,700, the StarTribune reported.

From 2013 to 2019, Concordia’s enrollment grew by 40%, tuition revenue increase by 66%, and average debt fell by nearly $10,000, according to the StarTribune.

UB’s coronavirus page offers complete coverage of the impacts on higher ed.

Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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