It doesn’t take much time or effort to find examples of economically-driven disruption in higher ed, whether those examples are related to changes in financial aid plans, remodeling tuition policies, chasing after the Massive Open Online Course [MOOC] train, or trying to attract a particular demographic of students.
1. The President of Metro State University in Denver, CO, explains the different strategies undertaken by Colorado’s institutions, in a recent Denver Post article, Colorado’s colleges make tough decisions to ensure survival:
“They’re all part of long-term strategies that we’re all making — really tough decisions that will ultimately determine, in many respects, whether those schools survive or not,” Jordan said. “I see that playing out in all our institutions around Colorado. We all have different missions and different sets of problems, but ultimately we’re all in the same place: What are we going to do to ensure the long-term survival of our universities?”
- changing colleges to universities (to attract more out-of-state students),
- possibly building a $250 million football stadium (to raise Colorado State University’s profile),
- creating a new tuition rate for undocumented students (more than in-state, but less than out-of-state), and
- attempting to increase visibility with Latino students (becoming a Hispanic Serving Institution has the potential to double federal funds available to the University).
2. Last year Sewanee received national attention by cutting tuition; last week it was Concordia University, which cut its tuition for 2013-14 by $10,000 or about thirty-four percent. The Minneapolis Star Tribune subhead tells it all: The St. Paul university hopes that a lower sticker price will impress a public weary of the high cost of college.
Just a handful of Concordia undergrads now pay the full $29,700 in tuition and fees. But Concordia hopes to attract families who are being scared off by the published price.
“It’s been a bigger and bigger challenge for us to get those individuals to even consider us,” said Prof. Eric LaMott, Concordia’s senior vice president and chief operating officer. “The high discount isn’t fixing the problem, because they don’t even look.”
Concordia believes it’s making a bold move toward greater affordability and transparency in a marketplace that’s demanding both.
Publicity stunt or reality check? Enrollment management professional and consultant, Dan Lundquist, wrote about Concordia and the college sticker price on a college marketing firm’s blog: Dan Lundquist on Concordia’s Tuition Reset. It’s an interesting read, both for more information on Concordia’s “right pricing” experiment and some historical context:
Back before the federal government busted the so-called Overlap Group (the Ivies and MIT) for collusion and price-fixing, we in the admissions office would compare prices and financial aid offers with our core overlap group (AKA “competitors”) in hopes that we could minimize the role the cost would play in college choice. But there was another result; one that I honestly believe at the time was unintended. Penn’s president Martin Meyerson said it best: “We were building up a kind of notion about colleges and universities that the higher the price, the better they were.” (Stanford’s finance vice president Bill Massy was blunter: “The theory was, basically, we will increase tuition as much as the market will bear.”)
3. Meanwhile, a new state law in Ohio — which currently awards a degree to only 56 percent of their students in six years — requires the public universities to show students how they could earn a bachelor’s degree in three years. See Public colleges told to outline 3-year grad plan, by Meagan Pant in the Dayton Daily News.
“College is not getting any cheaper,” said Jim Petro, chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents.
“One sure way that families can bring that cost down is by doing it in a shorter time span,” Petro said. “I don’t know when it became almost practical in Ohio that many students take five, six years to get a degree, but that really drives up the cost.”
The law didn’t set goals for the number of three year degrees — those range from one to three percent of students now. One hope expressed by state officials is that, by showing students the path toward completing a degree in three years, the universities will increase the number of students earning a bachelor’s degree in four.
4. A few months back I wrote about Wesleyan University’s move away from need-blind admissions. Here’s an Inside Higher Ed story about that change. This summer Cornell reversed its previous no-loan guarantee to families earning under $75k, beginning with the 2013 school year. From the Cornell Daily Sun, Cornell Kills Portion of Financial Aid Guarantee.
The revised aid policy will add thousands of dollars more in loans for families. Where they previously would have had to take out no loans, students whose families make between $60,000 and $75,000 annually will now take out up to $2,500 in loans.
Other income brackets will be affected by the policy, too. Those making between $75,000 and $120,000 will take out up to $5,000 — not the current $3,000 — in loans. The only group not affected by the changes are families making more than $120,000 annually, who, as in previous years, will receive up to $7,500 in loans.
5. Finally, let’s circle back to Colorado, specficially Colorado State University-Global Campus, which announced last week it will be the first US university to accept transfer credits for Udacity, the Stanford University MOOC spinoff. Katherine Mangan writes, in the Chronicle of Higher Education, A First for Udacity: a U.S. University Will Accept Transfer Credit for One of Its Courses.
The university decided to accept the transfer credits after a committee of four faculty members in information technology reviewed the Udacity course and its methods of assessing student learning.”We believe that as a public university, affordability and accessibility are key,” said Becky Takeda-Tinker, president of the Global Campus.
A few minutes searching online could bring up five more examples. Or, here in Charlottesville, one could simply pick up the daily paper. Coming soon: more on the still-evolving story of disruption at the University of Virginia.