College Tuition: Schools Cutting Prices at Historic Levels

Last Updated Apr 16, 2010 12:22 PM EDT

College tuition is on sale. Private colleges are cutting prices at historic levels.Pile of scissors
Get this: The average private institution is slashing its college tuition by 53.5%. So a school with a tuition sticker price of $30,000 would actually cost $13,950.

These fire sale prices aren't just reserved for braniacs. More than 82% of students attending private colleges and universities are capturing tuition discounts via scholarships and grants from their institutions.

I got these statistics from the latest survey of tuition discounts that the National Association of College and University Business Officers conduct each year.

From the perspective of families, the news could be even better. The college tuition discount figures come from the 2008-2009 school year. NACUBO, however, estimates that the percentage of students receiving price cuts or scholarships at private colleges inched up to 84% for the latest crop of freshmen.

Who are the students who are capturing these discounts?
  • Schools awarded about 36% of the scholarship money to students who needed financial help.
  • Colleges devoted 41.5% of the scholarship cash to affluent students, who didn't need the assistance.
  • Institutions spent 22.5% of the scholarship pot on students who had a partial financial need.
Why are colleges cutting prices at historic levels?

They are scared. Private schools worry that if they don't cut tuition prices like their competitors, they won't fill up their freshmen slots. They also have to fight the perception -- often wrong -- that state schools are the only affordable option.

The economy is still lousy. Whether or not the recession is over, families are still suffering and need more help from colleges.

Higher college prices are preferred. Parents tend to think that the more expensive a college is, the better the institution. Here's the take on this mindset from an InsideHigherEd article:

Some believe the high tuition, high aid model creates a Chivas Regal effect. So named for a high-priced Scotch whiskey, the Chivas effect suggests that people weighing the merits of two similar institutions will tend to think the more expensive one is superior. There's also a compelling case to be made that students and their families are apt to attend high-discount institutions because they're flattered by the offer of aid and perceive the large discount as a good deal.


Here's the bottom line: Look for schools that will give your child a discount. They shouldn't be hard to find.

Lynn O'Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution, an Amazon bestseller, and she also writes a college blog at TheCollegeSolution.com. Follow her on Twitter.

College tuition image by Abhisek Sarda. CC 2.0.

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