With tuition increases prevalent over the past 20 years for both private and public colleges, Randolph College, Sweet Briar and the University of Lynchburg have instituted tuition resets and programs to help students pay for school.
The average cost of tuition and fees at private national universities jumped 144% from 2002 to 2022, according to a study by the US News and World Report.
Randolph College Dean of Admissions Travis Carter said those numbers are staggering.
“I would say I’m probably in the same boat as the rest of the public,” Carter said. “I hear that number and it’s staggering, and it’s sobering.”
For comparison, the cumulative inflation rate in the US over the past 20 years has been about 60%, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Randolph College tuition and fees have increased about 41% during that 20-year span. The college saw its largest annual tuition price during fall 2019 at $ 41,131.
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Carter arrived at the college in the middle of 2019 as discussions had already begun for a possible reset. He said there was no way to predict a pandemic was coming, but the reset came at a good time. The school lowered tuition to $ 25,610 for the fall 2020 semester, a 38% decrease from the previous year.
“For a lot of students and families who have found themselves out of work and they’re trying to pay for things, it could not have come at a better time it seems like, from a timing perspective,” Carter said.
To help nearby students, Randolph College added to its LEAP program, also know as the Local Educational Access Program. The original program offered a special tuition rate to Lynchburg City and the five surrounding counties, ensuring they do not pay more than $ 14,000 per year in tuition. The new LEAP Plus program adds 17 new counties and cities, including the counties of Augusta, Craig, Roanoke and Rockbridge, and the city of Roanoke. Students in the new LEAP plus program will have to live on campus, but they will not pay more than $ 21,000 in tuition, room and board.
Carter said one of the things school officials talk about is constantly in the office of admissions and across campus is providing a quality and affordable education to students.
“There are so many schools out there, in my opinion, that price themselves out of the market, and we do not want to be one of those schools,” Carter said.
From fall 2003 to spring 2022, Sweet Briar College’s tuition cost increased by about 16%. The private nonprofit women’s college in Amherst County saw its highest tuition rate for 2017 through 2018 at $ 37,155.
In 2018, Sweet Briar enacted a tuition reset, something that current Sweet Briar President Meredith Woo described as “one of the most massive tuition resets ever in the country for a private institution.”
The move came just a few years after previous college leadership unsuccessfully attempted to close the school in 2015. Alumnae, students, faculty and supporters united to save Sweet Briar through legal action, social media and a fundraising campaign.
“There are a lot of colleges over the last few years that have done what is called tuition reset,” Woo said. “But even so, I think ours was radical in its transparency.”
The reset lowered tuition to $ 21,000, a nearly 44% decrease from 2017. Woo explained it was important to lower the price to compete with other public universities.
“I believe part of the reason why we did that is because… the vast majority of the colleges that we’m competing against are public institutions – like [University of Virginia]like Virginia Tech, like [Virginia Commonwealth University]like Longwood [University]. So at some level, we have to be able to compete with them and so it is very important for us to reign in the price, ”Woo said.
Along with the reset, students have access to more than 200 scholarships, according to Woo.
The cost of tuition at the University of Lynchburg has increased approximately 81.5% since 2001. The university saw its highest rate in fall 2020 at $ 41,880, a year before their price reset. The price reset lowered the price of tuition and fees to $ 33,500, a 20% decrease.
Michael Jones, the university’s vice president for enrollment, marketing and communications, said the reset has helped families.
“The tuition refresh has proven particularly helpful to families who have faced financial hardships as a result of the pandemic,” Jones said in a statement.
Associate Vice President for Enrollment Aaron Basko said in the last three years, the school have made changes to make sure that every incoming student receives some kind of scholarship funding.
“At the University of Lynchburg, we have worked hard to control costs and make sure families are getting a high value education for their money,” Basko said in a statement.