Policy Factsheet

College Tuition Rates

Reasons for Policy

  • College tuition prices have grown at rates that have far outpaced the ability of students and their families to pay for college.1
  • Lower-income students are more sensitive to changes in tuition and aid than are students from middle- and upper-income families.1
  • Black students are more sensitive to college costs than white students, even after controlling for income, socioeconomic status, and ability.1
  • Expanding and equalizing student access is a major public policy goal, and manipulation of price is the major policy instrument for achieving this goal.2

Community Groups

  • Community Colleges
  • Local Government
  • State Government
  • Universities

Policy Components

  • Increase in college tuition

Desired Outcomes

  • Increase college enrollment among low-income and racial/ethnic minority students

Level of Evidence Available to Evaluate Effectiveness of Policy

For all policies we describe on this website, we have applied the Standards of Evidence as defined by Flay et al. (2005) in the Standards of Evidence document published by Prevention Science.

The effectiveness level of this policy is 4: Consistent Evidence that Policy is Not Effective.

The levels of effectiveness as noted are:

  1. meets criteria for policy effectiveness (consistent, positive outcomes from at least two high-quality experimental or quasi-experimental trials using a comparison group or interrupted time series design);
  2. consistent evidence available linking policy with positive outcomes from high-quality observational studies only;
  3. insufficient evidence available for policy or policy components.

Achievable Results

  • A tuition increase of $100 is consistent with a drop in enrollment of somewhere in the range of 0.5% to 1%.1
  • Decreases in financial aid lead to declines in enrollment, where enrollment is more sensitive to declines in grant awards than loans or work-study.
  • Lower-income students are more sensitive to changes in tuition and aid than are students from middle- and upper-income families.1
  • Black students are more sensitive to college costs than white students, even after controlling for income, socioeconomic status, and ability.1
  • Students in community colleges are more sensitive to tuition and aid changes that are students in 4-year public colleges and universities.1

*There is no evidence available on the impacts of a decreased tuition rate on college enrollment, however, evidence does clearly indicate that increases in tuition reduce enrollment of low-income and minority students.

Community Examples

  • Franklin Pierce University, Rindge, New Hampshire, froze tuition rates for the 2010-11 academic year. http://beta.franklinpierce.edu/about/news/tuition_freeze.htm
  • Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York, increased tuition by 4 percent, the lowest increase in 44 years. http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2010/03/syracuse_university_trustees_a.html http://www.naicu.edu/special_initiatives/affordability/about/enhancing-affordability#caps10

Links to Policy Examples

  • Franklin Pierce University, 2010-2011 Academic Catalog, Tuition and Fees (pg. 239) http://franklinpierce.edu/academics/catalog/FranklinPierceCatalog1011.pdf
  • Syracuse University Bulletin, Tuition, Fees, and Related Policies http://supolicies.syr.edu/admin/tuit_fees.htm

References

1 Heller, DE (1997). Student price response in higher education: an update to Leslie and Brinkman. Journal of Higher Education, 68(6), 624-659.

2 Leslie, LL & Brinkman, PT (1987). Student price response in higher education. Journal of Higher Education, 58, 181-204.

3 Flay, BR, Biglan, A, Boruch, RF, Ganzalez Castro, F, Gottfredson, D, Kellam, S, Moscicki, EK, Schinke, S, Valentine, JC, & Ji, P (2005). Standards of evidence: Criteria for efficacy, effectiveness and dissemination. Prevention Science, 6(3), 151-175.