In September 2015, Rosemont College, a small, private liberal arts college just outside of Philadelphia, made a bold announcement.
They reduced tuition by 43 percent, beginning with the 2016–2017 academic year. Tuition was cut from its previous $32,620 level to $18,500.
Rosemont College has announced that tuition for the 2018–2019 year will be $18,900, a slight increase to compensate for the increase in the cost of living. “We want as many families as possible to continue to be able to take full advantage of Our Tuition Promise.” says Dr. Sharon Hirsh, president of Rosemont College.
The goals of Our Tuition Promise are twofold: to offer a new choice to families who thought Rosemont was out of their price range, and to restore clarity and simplicity to a college financing system that had become muddled and confusing.
“College tuition has become an artificial sticker price that most students do not end up paying. Instead, colleges discount the price through a package of grants and scholarships, which are nothing more than discounts off of the sticker price,” says Hirsh. The problem, she explained, is that the artificial sticker price that colleges advertise as their tuition price drives away families who do not understand college pricing.
When Rosemont reset its tuition, it advertised a true cost of tuition, making the College accessible to many more families. “We essentially moved from a high-price, high-discount model to a low-price, low-discount model, suddenly making a private education at a public school price a realistic prospect for more families.”
Financial aid and merit scholarships did not disappear when Rosemont reduced its tuition. They are still available to any student who qualifies — but they will be based on the new tuition price of $18,900 in 2018–2019.
Our Tuition Promise was very successful in its first two years. Rosemont attracted more students from middle-income families who loved Rosemont’s high academic quality and small learning environment, but didn’t love the $32,000 price tag. Now when families take a tour of the campus and talk to admissions counselors, the conversations are about academic programs, career opportunities, student life, and athletics instead of how much it will cost and how much debt the student will have after graduation. Students and families are making their college selection based on fit, not necessarily on finance.
In the last three years, more than 20 colleges across the nation have enacted similar tuition resets. Rosemont, taking a leadership role, was the first college in the Philadelphia region to dramatically reduce its tuition.
Richard Geschke, Esq., chair of Rosemont’s Board of Trustees at the time of the reset, said the College’s administration had been studying the issue for several years and that the decision to reduce tuition and room and board was met with unanimous approval by the Board.
“Because we’re small, we’re able to be nimble,” he said. “We’re doing this not because we have to, but because we can. We want to be sure we’re attracting the students who might initially have ruled us out due to price tag alone, but who will now realize they can afford a Rosemont education.”
In the three years since the College announced the reset, Rosemont’s profile has certainly risen. It is now viewed as a leader in higher education. While some who didn’t previously know Rosemont were surprised by their bold move, those who know the College recognize that their size allows them to be agile and responsive in a way that larger institutions often cannot be.
As Hirsh expected, other colleges followed Rosemont’s lead. “This decision was the right one for Rosemont and our students and their families. We would never presume to say what might be advisable for another institution, but we do hope that our bold step continues to stimulate conversations at other colleges and universities in Philadelphia, throughout Pennsylvania, and across the nation.”