In the last few weeks there have been several reports of colleges that are cutting or freezing tuition. Here’s a pretty neat announcement from Belmont Abbey College and here and here are announcements from Wittenberg and Mount Holyoke about tuition freezes. Given the growth in tuition (and the media attention surrounding the high cost of higher education) these reports have been met with a great deal of praise (as they should be).
However, I have to admit to being very curious about what these colleges are doing (or stopping) in order to freeze or cut their tuition?
So far, I’ve not read much “inside higher education” commentary about these practices. I think the silence is because so many higher ed. administrators are hesitant to heap on too much praise or criticism.
In this case, too much praise could elicit calls to do the same; and, too much criticism is pretty dangerous because we all may need to follow.
I am hesitant to write about it myself because my “crystal ball” is so cloudy about the vexing problem surrounding the perception of high cost in higher education.
However, I offer a couple of questions I’d like to have answers to so I can be more thoughtful in responding to those who are asking when we will follow the lead of the freezers and the cutters.
If I were a journalist covering all of this (which I am not), I’d ask the following questions?
- Will the net-cost to attend change or remain the same for students?
- Will you be reducing institutional financial aid? If so, by how much?
- Do you expect to net more revenue per student (or overall)? If so, how and why?
- Is this a short- or long-term plan?
- Will this reduce a student’s need to borrow for college?
- Can you project future increases?
If I were a student or parent of a student considering one of these college (which I am not), I’d ask the following questions?
- Are you making cuts to any programs or services in order to do this? If so, which programs?
- How will my experience be different from the experience of a student five years ago who was paying more to attend?
- Are you cutting financial aid in order to do this?
- What will future increases be?
As a college administrator, I want to ask.
- Does your plan entail growing enrollment and therefore making up for lost revenue by attracting more students? (Do you have the resources and facilities to accommodate growth without adding to your expenses?)
- How will you continue to offer financial aid to increasingly financially needy students?
- How will you continue to offer pay raises to faculty, staff and administrators?
- How will you meet inflationary demands on operating budgets and operating expenses—particularly benefits, health care and energy?
- How will you maintain your physical plant without increasing revenues to address plant depreciation?
I know higher ed. is competitive, but it would serve us all to know how the cutters and freezers are doing what they are doing. They probably know something the rest of us don’t. I want in on it.
W. Kent Barnds a.k.a @bowtieadmission