Education
Iowa State in the snow. Photo - Facebook/Iowa State University Iowa State in the snow. Photo - Facebook/Iowa State University  

Deep tuition freeze affects pockets of academia

While much of the United States continues to suffer from ever-increasing undergraduate tuition, a number of colleges and universities have actually cut prices. Many more aren’t quite so brave, but they are freezing rates at current levels.

Mount Holyoke College, a small liberal arts school in western Massachusetts and one of the illustrious Seven Sisters women’s colleges, is probably the most notable school to halt tuition increases.

The freeze at Mount Holyoke marks the second in as many years. Tuition and fees for the 2013-14 academic year will be $41,270, which is essentially equivalent to the rate students paid in 2011-12. Prices for on-campus room and board prices will also remain the same next year.

When Lynn Pasquerella, Mount Holyoke’s president, was promoting last year’s tuition freeze, she spoke of a lasting change in the way the school would manage costs. Turns out she was serious.

“We’re committed to our mission of providing a quality education to students regardless of socioeconomic background,” Pasquerella told Inside Higher Ed in an interview. “We can’t continue to raise tuition, with burgeoning student loan burdens, and increase the discount rate for the college.”

The University of Toledo, one of 14 state-funded universities in Ohio and home to some 23,000 total students, recently announced that it will freeze undergraduate tuition and fees, at least in the fall of 2013. The school will also offer lower-cost (and even free) housing options for qualifying students in future semesters.

“Higher education is getting harder and harder to access for a lot of families, especially in this part of the country,” university official Scott Scarborough told the Toledo Blade.

In addition to addressing concerns about affordability, another objective of the University of Toledo’s tuition freeze is to increase the school’s sagging retention rate.

In Rhode Island, undergraduate tuition and fees at University of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College and Community College of Rhode Island (the state’s three public colleges) will be frozen for 2013-14.

According to Boston.com, the schools must submit spending plans that reflect no increase in prices for 2013-14. Rhode Island’s Board of Governors for Higher Education expects the plan to result in an extra $14 million in state spending.

Not to be outdone, Roger Williams University, a midsize private liberal arts school in Bristol, RI, will freeze tuition at just under $30,000 for full-time undergraduates in 2013-14 year and guarantee that price for four years.

Roger Williams is also making a concerted effort to encourage — but not require — undergrads who major in the liberal arts to add an actually useful minor, notes The Chronicle of Higher Education. So, for example, a student who majors in sociology might be urged to minor in business as well. 

In Iowa, tuition hikes have been the norm at state universities since at least 1992, reports The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. However, the state Board of Regents appears to be finalizing a plan that would impose a 2013-14 tuition freeze at the state’s three public universities. The plan would only benefit Iowa residents, and would not extend to graduate students.

Not everyone is on board with Iowa’s tuition freeze, says The Gazette. Graduate students at the University of Iowa oppose it, for example, because it will likely lead to tuition increases for them. The University of Northern Iowa has also expressed concerns because so many students there are state residents. As such, UNI cannot make up any shortfall by raising prices for nonresident students.

Many other colleges and universities aren’t freezing tuition per se, but they are guaranteeing that tuition won’t increase once you enroll.

The University of Evansville is one such school. As U.S. News reports, incoming students will pay $29,740 in tuition each year for the next four years. Prices will likely increase for future incoming classes, though, and, again, only tuition is guaranteed. Fees could increase by a little or a whole lot.

A good number of colleges and universities across the country instituted tuition freezes for 2012-13. Schools that opted not to raise their prices this school year include the University of Texas at Austin, Temple University, the University of Maine and all three public schools in Arizona (the University of Arizona, Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University).

Also, thanks to a just-passed ballot initiative, a throng of undergraduate schools in California’s vast web of public universities will experience what amounts to a retroactive tuition freeze this year.