A Sign That Tuition Is Too High: Some Colleges Are Hacking It in Half

Purdue University has held tuition and fees flat since 2012.

At private colleges, most students do not pay the list price. In a study from the National Association of College and University Business Officers, 359 private nonprofit colleges and universities reported that a vast majority — 82.5 percent — of undergraduates received grant aid in the 2021-22 school year. On average, the awards were the highest ever, covering 60.7 percent of published tuition and fees.

At Colby-Sawyer, the discounts reduced the average tuition to about $12,700 from $46,364, according to the college. With room, board and fees, the total list price of attending has now dropped to about $36,000, from $63,500, according to the college.

“We’re bringing the published tuition much closer to reality,” said Dan Parish, the head of college advancement at Colby-Sawyer.

Kim Schusler, a senior sales trainer for an electronic health records company, lives near Colby-Sawyer, in Bradford, N.H., with her husband, who is a bus driver, and their two sons.

But the school was “not even a blip on our radar because it was just so expensive,” she said. “This wasn’t med school. They were pricing themselves out of the market, for sure.”

Ms. Schusler’s older son, Cohl, is now a junior at Colby-Sawyer. He applied after his guidance counselor at Kearsarge Regional High School told him that, with his good grades, he could qualify for a number of scholarships, including one for being a local resident, that would significantly reduce his costs. The scholarship for local residents was a kind of test run for the tuition reset.

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