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Paying for College

Some Colleges Move to Slash Tuition

At least ten small regional schools are lowering their sticker prices, as well as their financial aid awards. Net result: a wash.

Talk about predictable. Each fall, college prices rise. And each fall, families fret over financing a heftier tuition bill. But this year, at least ten institutions are bucking the trend, cutting undergraduate tuition by 10% to nearly 50%.

You won’t find any public flagships or Ivy League universities in the group. All are small, regional colleges, such as Alaska Pacific University, in Anchorage, which will cut tuition from $29,600 to $19,950 starting next fall, and Converse College, in Spartanburg, S.C., which will lower tuition in 2014 from $29,124 to $16,500.

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Administrators say these cuts will entice ap­plicants turned off by the “high tuition/high discount” model, in which expensive prices are met with generous aid. For these local institutions, recruiting students is essential to their bottom line and lowering tuition is part of the sales pitch.

One group that could benefit from the change is families that don’t meet the definition of financial need and expect to pay full freight. For them, attending a “low tuition/low discount” school costs less.

But for most, the financial benefit is minimal. The lower sticker prices match what many students are already paying after aid. Plus, the schools have limited national appeal: Most high school seniors won’t travel to Anchorage to save $10,000. Larger and more prestigious colleges rely less on enrollment to balance the budget, and they won’t introduce across-the-board tuition cuts anytime soon.

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