<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://q.quora.com/_/ad/bdd9d941ae754c498fe2d2326d029ffa/pixel?tag=ViewContent&amp;noscript=1">

An Inside Look at Tuition Resets: Edmit Speaks with Robert Massa, Drew University

Featured Stories

Filter By Categories

Tuition reductions, or “tuition resets”, have been in the news lately, with Birmingham-Southern College, Drew University, and Sweet Briar College all embracing a reduced sticker price. Robert Massa, senior vice president of enrollment and institutional planning at Drew University, chatted with Edmit about why Drew decided to cut tuition by 20 percent.


Edmit: What was the rationale behind Drew University’s tuition reset?


Massa: The price of tuition at colleges has gone up significantly over the past 30 years. At the same time, the College Board just released their study on college costs, and while financial aid over the course of those years has certainly increased, it recently has not kept up with the increases in price.


We always look at what’s affectionately called the “sticker price” or “published price” as the cost of college. But cost is different from price: Cost is what it costs us [colleges and universities] to provide the education, not what you [the students and families] pay. Price is what you pay, but most students don’t pay that [full] price because of financial aid.


In the recently released College Board study, net undergraduate tuition and fees fell from an average $15,270 in 2007 to 2008 to $13,210 in 2012 to 2013, even though published prices were rising by an average of 2.4 percent annually in private nonprofit four-year institutions.


Robert Massa is Senior Vice President for Enrollment and Institutional Planning at Drew University

In other words, financial aid is still making up the difference. So why am I giving you all this background? Because most students do not pay the published price at most institutions. This is not true for the uber-selective schools, the Ivies and near-Ivies and the top 50 or so US News & World Report colleges and universities. It is true, however, for the bulk of the other 2,300 four-year nonprofit public and private universities: Most students do not pay the published price.


That said, numerous studies, most recently by the firm Ruffalo Noel Levitz,  show that at least half of families that look at colleges and universities cross schools off their lists based on the published price alone. In other words, they don’t dig deeply enough to find out what the net price would be, what the average price with financial aid would be. They don’t go on the [schools'] websites, they don’t look at the net price calculator to find out what it could cost them. They simply say it’s too expensive.


[With a tuition reset at Drew], we’re not lowering the cost of attendance. If we significantly cut our cost, we impact our quality. So we’re not cutting costs, we’re cutting the price that we charge. We need to get the attention of more students who are looking for colleges. We’re doing that by bringing our published price more in line with what most students pay after financial aid.


Think of it this way: If you’re selling a commodity and most people pay $100 for it, and you’re selling it for $350, but nobody really pays that price, people look at it say “I’m not paying $350 for that”, and move on to the next thing. Why would you continue to have your price at that level if most people aren’t paying it? You’re disincentivizing potential buyers, if you will, from actually considering your product.


Edmit: How can colleges like Drew afford the tuition reset?


Massa: Here’s the deal: Most colleges, like Drew, very fine liberal arts colleges, have a very small percentage of students who are paying the full price. Of Drew’s 1,550 students, only 75 were paying the full price without any financial aid. So when we cut the price by almost $10,000, that’s a loss of $750,000 or so.

That can be recovered with increased enrollment, and increased enrollment is the expected result of cutting the price. That’s why you reduce the price to begin with, particularly if you’re under-enrolled, which we are. You want to get the attention of students who hadn’t even considered Drew--because of the list price being so high--but for whom Drew would be an excellent alternative.


Edmit: For prospective college students and their parents, what advice can you offer them in terms of figuring out what they can afford?


Massa: Families have to decide for themselves what is worth it and what isn’t. Look at the programs, the place, and the people to determine the value of [the colleges they’re considering]. The average student is going to pay roughly $20,000 to $21,000 [per year] in tuition; at Drew, we’re charging $39,500. The average student is going to get a 48 percent discount from our new price; before they were getting a 62 percent discount from the higher price. So it’s still expensive, and we’re still going to be providing both need- and merit-based aid to help bring the price that families pay down to the affordable range.


Find out which college is your best financial fit by comparing college financial aid offers with Edmit!



Edmit's advice helps you to be better off after graduation.

  • Merit and financial aid estimates based on your student profile
  • Earnings estimates and financial scores for your college and major
  • Recommendations to save thousands on college

Sign up for updates

Popular Tags

Financial Aid and Scholarships* Cost of College* paying for college financial aid FAFSA Student Loans* grants and scholarships federal student loans Saving for College* Salary and Career* college tuition 529 plan cost of attendance expected family contribution private student loans college financial planning financial aid award taxes career college savings plan room and board on-campus housing merit scholarships budgeting for college college expenses federal financial aid merit-based financial aid private universities public universities edmit hidden gems edmit team college costs parent PLUS loan college applications living expenses CSS profile education expenses financial need income application fees career fit choosing a major financial aid appeal off-campus housing choosing a college college majors loan forgiveness affordable college degree programs loan repayment repayment plans researching careers student loan assistance student loan debt work-study application fee waivers career exploration college search coronavirus edmit scholarship institutional aid net price private scholarships SAT career goals college visits in-state tuition prepaid tuition plans ACT budget free tuition international students internships need-based financial aid need-blind colleges qualified higher education expenses retirement savings school-based scholarships southern colleges standardized testing tuition discount tuition guarantee tuition payment plans 401k UGMA UTMA applying to college college financial health college ranking systems college spending college transfers credit score discretionary income distance learning education savings accounts fees financial literacy full ride scholarship gap year grants health insurance options investment ivy league schools liberal arts degree meal plans midwestern colleges need-aware colleges out-of-state tuition saving state aid tuition increases western colleges 568 presidents group Inversant MEFA asset protection allowance best price campus life college advisor college credits college deposit college viability community college concurrent enrollment cost by region cost by state crowdfunding dorms early decision educational expenses esports fee waivers financial wellness for-profit universities fraternities and sororities full tuition graduate school home equity loan income share agreements job applications line of credit lists medical expenses medical school military benefits net price calculators new england colleges non-profit universities online learning online tuition out-of-state students percent need met private college consultant remote learning self-assessment siblings small business state schools student bank accounts student organizations subsidized loans title IV schools travel expenses tuition decreases tuition insurance tuition reciprocity undocumented students unsubsidized loans work-based learning