The economic downturn has been tough on students trying to pay for college — and, it has been hard for colleges and universities themselves. A number of private, nonprofit college and universities have been offering students steep discounts in the form of double-digit percentages or capping the price of admission for four years. Seton Hall University, a diocesan, Catholic university in northern New Jersey, garnered attention last fall when it announced it would offer a two-thirds discount (about $21,000) to early applicants with strong academic credential; students would need to maintain a 3.0 GPA and be enrolled full-time to continue to receive the discount. The resulting $12,154 in tuition does not include about $13,000 in room, board and other fees, but now is similar to that of New Jersey’s public university, Rutgers.
Duquesne University, Pennsylvania’s largest Catholic university with 5,858 undergraduates, is offering 50 percent off tuition for students enrolling in its School of Education in 2012. In Tennessee, Sewanee (The University of the South), offered students a 10 percent discount this fall. Vice-Chancellor John McCardell specifically noted that Sewanee “recognizes today’s new economic realities and the pressures that families face” and was offering the discounted tuition to “make an outstanding liberal arts education more accessible to qualified students.”
Colleges Trying To Pay Their Own Bills
Other colleges and universities have also been cutting tuition specifically to attract students and make ends meet. CNN reports that a number of Christian colleges have especially been struggling to increase enrollments, in the face of dwindling church membership. In addition, some students “fear their job and/or earning prospects will be limited should they graduate from a religiously-affiliated school.” Schools whose emphasis has been to prepare students for the ministry have been seeking to help students planning to seek lower-paying jobs in religiously-affiliated vocations after graduation — but they have also simply been trying to ensure they have enough tuition-paying students to keep themselves out of the red. Says CNN:
In order to appeal to a wider group of students, many of these institutions are removing the “Christian” or “Bible” from their names. Johnson Bible College, in Knoxville, Tenn., for example, changed its name to “Johnson University” earlier this year to “eliminate barriers that our students and graduates often face,” the college’s president Gary Weedman said in a statement on the school’s website.
Brewton-Parker College is a small Bible study school in southeastern Georgia whose enrollment is down to 778 students .CNN says that “the college has had to make sizable cost cuts, including reducing its workweek to four days from five in order to save on operations and staffing,” in order to allow for the tuition cuts.
Financial Struggles For Religiously Affiliated Colleges
Two-thirds of the more than 1,600 small private nonprofit institutions for higher education in the US have a religious affiliation and, in most cases, a Christian one (Baptist, Lutheran, Roman Catholic). As these schools (including the one where I teach) are private, their costs tends to be higher than those of public universities and certainly than community colleges. As a result, some of our students are simply not able to continue their studies the college.
That said, the majority of students at my college receives some form of financial aid. Some students with strong academic credentials may have half and even all of their tuition covered through scholarships and the same holds for some of the other institutions mentioned above. Financing college is certainly still a challenge for students even with such aid and students have to meet requirements such as maintaining a certain GPA and graduating in four years.
According to the American Religious Identification Survey conducted by Trinity College, the percentage of Americans adults identifying themselves as Christian has fallen from 86 percent in 1990 to 76 percent in 2008. Among Americans 18 to 29 years old, 26 percent say they are unaffiliated with any religious domination. So schools that have historically been religious are having to change and not only their name; they may have to shift the focus of their educational programs, offer new programs to try to attract more students or even merge with larger institutions.
Economic crises are tough on students for sure and (some) colleges (more than others) too.
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