College tuition resets have been in the news lately. In fall 2017, at least 8 colleges and universities announced college tuition resets, a pricing strategy that dramatically cuts tuition rates. How will a tuition reset affect your family?

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What is a Tuition Reset?

Some colleges and universities are significantly dropping their published tuition price tag, or the sticker price, before scholarships and financial aid are awarded. For instance, La Salle University  reduced their tuition from $40,400 to $28,800 , beginning with the fall 2017 semester. Reasons for the price cuts differ but can represent efforts to increase enrollment numbers and/or control student costs.

Schools that have reset their tuition this fall are mostly private institutions. Concordia University—St. Paul , Drew University , and Utica College  are a few examples. However, some public institutions, such as the University of Virginia  and the College of William and Mary , have lowered their tuition prices, too.

Will Tuition Reset Help Your Family Pay for College?

Did a college on your list announce a tuition reset? Here are some potential pros and cons to be aware of:

The Pros:

  • Increased college access: The tuition price  for some highly sought-after institutions becomes potentially more affordable for many students and their families that could not previously afford such institutions.
  • Investment in college resources and services: With a potential increase in number of applicants and a boost to enrollment, colleges may end up pulling in more overall tuition revenue than in previous years that can be invested back into college programs, student services, financial aid offers, etc. 
  • Greater pricing transparency: “What a lot of people don’t know is that the sticker price over the years has become less and less close to the reality of what students really pay,” said MaryAnn Baenninger, President of Drew University in a Facebook video interview with our own Editor-in-Chief Rob Franek. Drew University announced a tuition reset in September 2017 to go into effect in 2018-2019. “What we’re trying to do with resetting the tuition at Drew is give parents and students a better indication or closer indication of what they’ll really pay to take away some of the mystery about that and particularly for families who have been saving money for college. Knowing exactly what it costs is a lot better than having this price out there, which is probably not what they’re going to pay and that’s really the goal.”

The Cons:

  • Only applies to undergrads: Typically, these tuition resets only apply to students enrolled in undergraduate programs and not to those enrolled in graduate studies and online-only programs.
  • Potentially reduced financial aid: Even as tuition drops, the net price of what families actually pay once financial aid enters the picture may not. Institutional aid in the form of grants and scholarships at some schools may be reduced.
  • Who gets to pays less?: With so many unknowns, the only guarantee when a college resets tuition is that its wealthiest students—those who do not qualify for financial aid—will end up paying less. Prospective students can't make assumptions about what they'll actually pay until they receive their financial aid offers.

Frequently Asked Questions about Tuition Reset

To find out if a college’s tuition reset strategy will affect your family, make sure to contact the college financial aid office. You may use these frequently asked questions as a starting point:

  • Why is the university resetting its tuition?
  • Does the tuition reset include room, board and fees?
  • How will the reset impact continuing students for the 2018-19 academic year?
  • How does the tuition reset affect merit and need-based aid?
  • Will the tuition reset affect the quality of programs, internships, extracurricular activities, services, etc.?
  • Will cuts be made to academic opportunities and student services to afford the tuition reset?
  • Does a decrease in tuition indicate a decrease in quality?
  • How will the tuition reset affect enrollment?
  • How is the university able to do this?
  • How will the university benefit?
  • What are the expected results for my prospective university?

The answers to the questions can vary by institution, so be sure to do your research!

The Bottom Line

Don’t let the sticker price discourage you from applying to colleges you would love to attend. You won’t know what your financial obligation will be until after you:

  1. Are accepted
  2. Apply for financial aid
  3. Receive your financial aid award letter

Only then will you have everything you need to make an informed decision about the college that is the best financial fit for you.

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