Private college tuition discount rates hit new highs during the pandemic

Higher Ed Dive 

Hallie Busta

May 19, 2021

Dive Brief:

  • Tuition discounts at private nonprofit colleges are expected to hit a new record in the 2020-21 academic year, according to preliminary data from the National Association of College and University Business Officers.

  • Discount rates reached 53.9% for first-time, full-time students and 48.1% for all undergraduates across 361 schools studied — a year-over-year increase of more than two percentage points for both groups.

  • The data doesn’t include the tens of billions of dollars in federal coronavirus relief aid the sector received during the year.

Dive Insight:

Private nonprofit colleges for years have offset a growing share of students’ tuition costs, but the latest data shows that trend accelerating. That’s in part because students’ financial needs increased during the pandemic, said Ken Redd, senior director of research and policy analysis at NACUBO.

Nearly 90% of first-year students and around 83% of all undergraduates received some form of institutional grant aid, the data shows, and it covered a slightly higher share of their tuition and fees than the year before. Across all institutions surveyed, the average published tuition and fees rose less than 1% in 2020-21. Many schools across the country lowered or froze their posted tuition prices during the pandemic.