Oberlin College, in Ohio, has cut its tuition by $10,000 for all new students. Nearby Denison University is offering an even better deal for Ohio residents: a $100,000 scholarship over four years. And Davidson College, in North Carolina, has frozen its tuition for the first time in a quarter-century.
The Covid-19 pandemic has upended college life — and college finances — for millions. Now, in a sign of what might lie ahead, it also has begun to check the relentless rise in prices that has strained family finances and pushed the nation’s combined student debt to over $1.7 trillion, as admission deans stare down fewer high school graduates.
“The pendulum may be swinging a little bit toward the consumer side,” said Steve Frappier, director of college counseling at the Westminster Schools in Atlanta. “But that’ll also depend on the selectivity of the school and the financial health of the school.”
This year has already been one of unrivaled chaos for admissions offices, with many devising workarounds for students unable to visit campus in person and waiving standardized-test requirements. Freshman enrollment is down 13% this year, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, which called the decline “unprecedented.”
It’s not yet clear whether large universities with robust endowments and high demand will follow suit. Princeton University in New Jersey cut tuition 10% for undergraduates for the current academic year because the pandemic significantly diminished the student experience. The Ivy League school, one of the richest U.S. universities, is expected to set the 2021-2022 price in April.