Four-Year Cost Of Tuition: University Of Dayton Sets Precedent
The four-year cost of going to a university or college is one of the most unpredictable things in higher education, but at the University of Dayton, there is an innovative approach underway that could serve as a benchmark for future pricing models.
The university has made headlines this year with news of its net cost planning approach. Before a student enrolls, families can know to the penny how much it will cost for the full four years of attendance. In the same way that some electric companies allow you to average your electricity costs and pay a uniform monthly payment as opposed to one that fluctuates, the University of Dayton gives you everything you need to know to plan for expenses over four years of undergraduate attendance.
To clarify, according to Cleveland.com, the university does allow for cost increases, but it negates that by pledging to students that scholarships and grants will grow each year to cover the inflation.
Offers of financial aid are submitted to each first-year student in March. These contain a two-page prospectus that itemize costs, including tuition, room and board, books, and transportation (where necessary).
Also on the prospectus is a listing of applicable scholarships and possible grants that the student might receive. Last but not least, the university gives options on how to pay the final cost (i.e. work-study income, loans, and payment plans).
“We want families to understand exactly what they will be paying for, from day one through graduation,” said UD president Daniel Curran in a press release.
Ninety-eight percent of freshmen that attend the University of Dayton do so on financial assistance, with fall tuition at $35,800.
We said it was a cool pricing structure. We didn’t say it was cheap. But then, you’d be pressed to find a university in the entire country that has managed to hold down the four-year cost of attendance. In the paper, “Tuition Rising: Why College Costs So Much,” Ronald Ehrenberg, the Irving M. Ives Professor of Industrial and Labor Relations and Economics at Cornell University, writes that “top institutions have chosen to maintain and increase quality largely by spending more, not by increasing efficiency, reducing costs, or reallocating funds.”
(Sounds like Congress.) If you’re in the mood to dig a little deeper into why your costs are so high, the full paper is only about four pages in length and worth a read. (Unfortunately, it probably isn’t going to raise your spirits much.)
Ehrenberg’s speculation seems dead-on to us. It’s hard to right a ship as large as even the smallest of universities, not to mention one of any size. And since most four-year universities are under constant pressure to boost enrollment, that also means a more intense, and expensive, outreach effort to each new group of prospective students. Of course, one could argue, and probably be correct in doing so, that institutions of higher learning haven’t invested enough in modernizing the educational experience. With the convenience of modern technology giving rise to more viable online learning opportunities, it’s puzzling why the increases should continue to outstrip household income.
What do you think is the greatest contributing factor to the four-year cost of a college education?