Colleges Slash Tuition to Attract Students… and Pay the Bills

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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iii q.
g d c6 years ago

education shoudl be free!!!

Brenda Towers
Brenda T6 years ago


peggy p.
peggy p6 years ago

amazing how costs can be lessened when times are tough...should be done all along..

rene davis
irene davis6 years ago


Keith F.
Keith F.6 years ago

Is it enough that colleges remove the religious reference from their names? The problem with acceptance, in many cases, stems from the fact that their education may be perceived to be subject to religious domination, particularly when they were founded by or have a close relationship with a particular religious denomination.

Duane B.
.6 years ago

The economy is tough, and even the big Ivy League schools are feeling the pinch. On-line colleges are growing in popularity and have much lower operating costs without having to support brick and mortar campus facilities, and will likely serve a major percentage of college students in the future.

Julia W.
Julia W6 years ago

Just like k-12 public education is free, so should a public university education be free, and so should training and internships be free. It's about making the country --and the world-- stronger, smarter and more just.

Let's do what western Europe and Canada did 60 years ago...

Gary Addis
Gary Addis6 years ago

To Holly's "Make education affordable" I add this: Make it free as it is in the rest of the Western world!

Cathryn C.
Cathryn C6 years ago

College tuition has risen beyond belief and much faster than inflation. That some of them are cutting tuition is good, but that won't really help where college funds have been devestated just helping a family survive these economic times..or If the present GOP candidates for Nomination actually has one of them get into the White House. Not one vblessed one of them does NOT want to cut Education funding and that means, Pell Grants and other programs that help a College age student from the Middle Class and Poor.

Kristina J.
Kristina J6 years ago

If only we could see such progress from institutions that did not offer majors in brainwashing and misinformation. Until we remove the 'for-profit' from education, the divide between the rich and the rest of us will only become more distinct and absurd, permanently vaulting us into 3rd world status. If you are born into the aristocracy, you get to go to the Ivy League and get to land the VP/CEO jobs, if are born into the working poor, you get to work under the Ivy League brats for minimum wage. Intelligence and effort mean nothing.