Local private colleges slash tuition prices as enrollment declines

NEWTON, Mass. — As college enrollment numbers continue to decline, small private schools are slashing tuition prices in an effort to entice more students to apply.

“We know the price was scaring families away,” Lasell University President Michael Alexander said.

Lasell University in Newton announced it is dropping its published tuition price by 33%, from $59,130 to $39,500 in 2022-23. The private four-year non-profit has seen its enrollment numbers steadily erode, from a peak of 2,100 students in 2015 down to 1,650 in 2022.

“By reducing the published price, we certainly would hope that more people would apply,” Alexander said. “If they see a sticker price of $60,000 or more, there’s research out there that says 60% of them don’t take the next step to apply or figure out if they can afford it.”

College enrollment has been declining since 2010, according to data from BestColleges, with colleges and universities losing around 3.3 million students—or 17% of enrollment--between 2011 and 2022. According to The Hechinger Report, as many as 100 colleges may lower their prices to reverse this trend.

One of the most frustrating aspects for consumers, the Hechinger Report found, is the difference between a school’s sticker price—its published tuition cost--and the actual price a student will pay after scholarships and institutional aid are subtracted.

“Many families are not aware that some students do not pay the full sticker price for college. Only 18% of college-bound families agree that the amount families actually pay is lower than the price advertised by the school,” a 2022 Sallie Mae College Confidence report found.

“We just wondered how many families are we not even in conversation with because our sticker price was pretty high,” said Colby-Sawyer College President Susan Stuebner. “100% of our students receive some sort of institutional aid, either need-based or merit-based.”

Colby-Sawyer in New London, New Hampshire announced it’s slashing its published tuition by 62%, from $46,365 down to $17,500.

“What most families don’t know is that the listed price is far above what they would pay if they were to enlist in Colby-Sawyer,” Stuebner said. “It is more reflective of what kids actually pay to attend Colby-Sawyer, so we’re taking the gamesmanship and the confusion out of it.”

Lasell students Christopher Green and Hayden Wildes said they don’t know a single classmate who is paying the full $59,130 tuition price. Green and Wildes said they’re receiving scholarships and institutional aid and next year’s tuition drop won’t save them much money.

“I think it’s really just a tactic to attract new people to smaller schools,” Wildes said. “But prices for [current] students will stay the same.”

“To the public, it looks like it’s such a big deal but around here, everyone is kind of shaking their heads. We’re still paying the same amount of money,” Green said.

College Board’s Trends in College Pricing 2022 report broke down the 2022-23 average published prices for tuition, fees, room, and board:

  • Public Four-Year In-State: $23,250
  • Public Four-Year Out-of-State: $40,550
  • Private Nonprofit Four-Year: $53,430

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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