Belmont Abbey College, a private university in North Carolina, has cut tuition by 33 percent, giving hope to students and parents that a college education at a private university is not out of their reach.
Belmont Abbey is not the first to cut tuition. The trend was reported in Smart Money in February. Six colleges announced they planned to reduce tuition costs in the next school year, saying lower-cost higher education will attract more students from middle-income families. These are families with incomes too high to qualify for free federal financial aid, but not high enough to pay for college costs without going into debt.
"We are hoping to recruit more students from that group than in the past," says Edwin Welch, president of University of Charleston, in West Virginia, which is slashing tuition by 22 percent. Others are looking to lure students away from nearby colleges that up to now have been more affordable, says Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of FinAid.org, which tracks financial aid issues.
The cuts come as the average annual cost of tuition and fees at a four-year private university for the current academic year is $28,500 -- a 15 percent increase from five years ago.
These colleges that have cut tuition this year, with totals reflecting yearly cost: Cabrini College located near Philadelphia, Pa., $33,176 reduced to $29,000; Lincoln College, Lincoln, Ill., $23,000 reduced to $17,480; the University of Charleston in West Virginia, $26,200 reduced to $20,700; William Peace University, Raleigh, N.C., $25,900-$23,000; Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, $28,671 reduced to $14,355; and Seton Hall University, South Orange, N.J., $31,000 reduced to $10,104.
The trend has not reached private California universities and colleges, but favoring the middle class is definitely attractive and could draw California high school graduates out of the state. It is noteworthy also that public universities and colleges can be less expensive than private schools, but not always. Tuition and fees are approximately $10,000 a year or $5,419 per semester for public universities in California for those choosing a public institution.
While fees are being reduced at private four year colleges, public institutions are seeing a rise of 15 percent, according to a USA report:
“The average tuition at a four-year public university climbed 15% between 2008 and 2010, fueled by state budget cuts for higher education and increases of 40% and more at universities in states like Georgia, Arizona and California. The U.S. Department of Education's annual look at college affordability also found significant price increases at the nation's private universities, including at for-profit institutions, where the net price for some schools is now twice as high as Harvard.”
Last June, Education Secretarysaid students need to be smart consumers and states needs to do their part by making higher education a priority in their budgets. Forty percent of states cut higher education spending last year, the most important factor in tuition increases.
"As a nation, we need more college graduates in order to stay competitive in the global economy," Duncan said. "But if the costs keep on rising, especially at a time when family incomes are hurting, college will become increasingly unaffordable for the middle class."
If tuitions continue to be reduced, particularly like Seton Hall that reduced its tuition by two-thirds, middle-class families will be able to look to private colleges and universities giving students more choice in selecting a four-year institution that fits their particular education needs.
Public vs. private
If the tuition reduction trend continues, it is possible that despite what you might believe, not all private colleges have sky-high tuition and many public colleges do, in-fact, provide a first-rate education. And the examples given here demonstrate that tuition can be within the reach of more families.
Do not eliminate a college or university from consideration purely because you think it will cost too much. Even if the full tuition is out of your budget, you may be eligible for financial aid and scholarships that will drop the cost of tuition into your price range.