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All Contents © 2019The Kiplinger Washington Editors
By Kaitlin Pitsker, Associate Editor
| Originally Published October 2015
The cost of attending college usually moves in only one direction: up, and often quickly. Over the past 30 years, the cost of tuition and fees, adjusted for inflation, has increased by a cumulative 146% at private, nonprofit four-year colleges and 225% for in-state students at public four-year colleges.
But some schools are bucking that trend. In recent years, a growing group of mostly small and midsize private colleges and universities have slashed the price of tuition. And in June 2015, Washington’s state legislature approved tuition cuts for in-state students of 5% to 20% over the next two years at the state’s public colleges and universities, including a 5% cut at community colleges and technical schools. Several schools have already announced tuition cuts for the 2016-17 academic year; you’ll likely see more schools back away from their jaw-dropping sticker prices as they cut tuition in the hope of attracting a larger pool of applicants.
Note: Cutting tuition will soothe sticker shock, but it may not fatten your wallet. Often the newly reduced prices are closer to what some students were already paying after factoring in financial aid. Because tuition cuts are usually accompanied by a decrease in the school's financial aid spending, students who receive generous financial aid awards will typically see little change in the net price that they pay. Families who are paying full freight and students who qualify for very little aid will see larger savings at colleges that cut tuition.
Here are 10 colleges that have cut tuition for the 2015-16 or 2016-17 academic year. Take a look.
Courtesy of Utica College
Location: Utica, N.Y.
Undergraduate enrollment: 3,089
Tuition reduction: 42% for 2016-17
This private college in the Mohawk Valley region of central New York offers 37 majors, a host of student clubs and organizations, 25 varsity sports, and 16 intramural sports. In September, the school announced that tuition for the 2016-17 academic year would be $19,996 (it was $34,466 for 2015-2016). Over four years, the tuition reset will save incoming freshman at least $6,922, not counting any effect on financial aid.
Courtesy of ifly6 via Wikimedia Commons
Location: Rosemont, Penn.
Undergraduate enrollment: 597
Tuition reduction: 41% for 2016-17
This tiny liberal arts college drew a lot of attention in September, when it announced that the school would cut tuition for the 2016-17 academic year by a whopping 41%, from $31,520 for 2015-16 to $18,500 next year. The cost of room and board will decrease 14% next year as well, from $13,400 to $11,500. The school sits on 56 suburban acres, 11 miles (and a half-hour train ride) from downtown Philadelphia. It offers two dozen majors, including biology, finance and religious studies. Current Rosemont students have already received information about how the changes in sticker price will affect their own cost of attendance after factoring in financial aid. The individual net savings will vary from about $100 to several thousand dollars, with an average net savings of $815 next year.
Location: Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Undergraduate enrollment: 1,000
Cost reduction: 22% for 2015-16
Stillman College, whose official school colors are navy blue and Vegas gold, costs a little less green this year. Starting in fall 2015, the annual cost of attendance, including tuition and room and board, dropped from $22,500 to $17,500 for full-time students at this historically black liberal arts college, established in 1876. Stillmanites can select among 13 majors of study and participate in a range of activities, from sports to Greek social events to marching band. The school's grounds—just a short walk from downtown Tuscaloosa—feature a lush grove of magnolias at the center of the 105-acre campus.
Location: Ellensburg, Wash.
Undergraduate enrollment: 10,964
Tuition reduction: 5% for 2015-16, 15% for 2016-17
Founded in 1891 to educate future elementary and junior high school teachers, Central Washington University has greatly expanded its course offerings over the past 124 years. The school offers more than 150 majors, including early childhood education, environmental studies and chemistry. The 5% tuition reduction announced by the state brings 2015-16 tuition to $6,606 for in-state students. Next year, tuition for in-state students will drop another 15%, to $5,615. (The statewide tuition reduction at public colleges and universities does not apply for out-of-state students.) Outside of class, students can explore more than 125 clubs, organizations and associations on campus; cheer fellow Wildcats on the 13 varsity athletic teams; or take to the fields and courts themselves in any of 22 club sports. Off campus, they can explore the historic town of Ellensburg, hike the Stuart Mountains or go skiing at Mission Ridge.
Courtesy of Gregg M. Erickson via Wikimedia Commons
Location: Olympia, Wash.
Undergraduate enrollment: 3,878
This small, liberal arts college is often noted for its unusual mascot—the geoduck, the world's largest burrowing clam. But this year, the college is making the news for its 5% tuition reduction, part of Washington State's tuition rollback. Tuition for the roughly three-fourths of Evergreen State students who are state residents was reduced to $6,620 for 2015-16; that cost will shrink another 15% next year, to $5,627. Although the college does not offer formalized majors, students can take courses in more than 60 fields of study. Nearly half of the school's recent graduates made it to graduation day without taking loans, and those who graduated with loans borrowed an average of $21,054, less than both the national and the state average.
Courtesy of Ian Poellet via Wikimedia Commons
Location: Cheney, Wash.
Undergraduate enrollment: 13,453
Located 16 miles from Spokane, Washington's second-largest city, Eastern Washington University's sprawling 300-acre campus adjoins rolling wheat fields. Ski resorts, lakes and other outdoor attractions are a short car trip from campus. For the 2015-16 academic year, in-state tuition shrank from $6,491 to $6,166. It will decrease another 15% for the 2016-17 academic year, to $5,241. Eastern Washington University offers 135 fields of study, including anthropology, international business and psychology. Outside of class, students can choose from more than 130 student clubs and organizations, seven fraternities and eight sororities, 55 intramural sports leagues, and 33 sports clubs.
Courtesy of Bobak HaEri via Wikimedia Commons
Location: Bellingham, Wash.
Undergraduate enrollment: 14,152
The Vikings have something to cheer about: Washington State's new budget will reduce the cost of tuition for in-state students by 5% for 2015-16 and another 15% in 2016-17. This year, Washington state residents, who make up about 90% of the student body, saw the cost of tuition shrink from $7,202 to $6,842. For the 2016-17 academic year, in-state tuition will be further reduced to $5,816. Western Washington University's 180-acre campus, which is nestled between Puget Sound and San Juan Island to the west and the Mount Baker and North Cascades mountain ranges to the east, was named to our 2015 Best College Values list, ranking number 91 among public colleges for in-state students (number 77 for out-of-state students) and number 248 among all colleges.
Courtesy of Nyttend via Wikimedia Commons
Location: Wilmington, Ohio
Undergraduate enrollment: 1,093
Tuition Reduction: 16% for 2015-16
This small, Quaker college, located about halfway between Columbus and Cincinnati, offers more than 25 academic majors, ranging from agriculture and teaching to business and sports management. The campus is also home to about three dozen student organizations and 11 active Greek organizations. Last fall, the school announced that tuition for the 2015-16 academic year would be reduced by $4,620, to $23,800. That brings the total annual tab, including tuition, fees, room and board, and books, to about $35,000 before financial aid.
Location: Seattle, Wash.
Undergraduate enrollment: 29,468
Tuition reduction: 5% for 2015-16, 10% for 2016-17
The Evergreen state's flagship public research institution, often referred to as "U-dub," ranked number 11 for best in-state value (number 28 for out-of-state value) in our 2015 rankings of public colleges and universities. It ranked number 130 in our combined rankings of public and private colleges and universities. The University of Washington offers 180 majors and is home to 16 academic colleges, which offer a total of 1,800 courses each year. More than 90% of first-year students return as sophomores, and nearly 60% of students graduate on time. Under the new state budget, in-state tuition dropped 5% for 2015-16, from $10,740 to $10,203. Next year, in-state tuition will drop another 10% to $9,183.
Courtesy Iidxplus via Wikimedia Commons
Location: Pullman, Wash.
Undergraduate enrollment: 20,043
This year, in-state students at this 125-year-old school are paying $517 less in tuition than they did the year before. And for the 2016-17 academic year, in-state tuition will decrease again, from $9,819 to $8,837. Within Washington State's 11 academic colleges, students can choose among 95 majors, including accounting, wine business management, music composition and Asian studies.