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Strategies for Managing the Rising Cost of Higher Education

May/June 2022

By Business Officer Staff


Higher education has become increasingly expensive over the years, with the cost of tuition, room and board, and other expenses continuing to rise. The rising cost of higher education has made it more difficult for many students to access and afford a college education, particularly for those from low-income backgrounds. In response, colleges and universities are exploring innovative approaches to financial aid, tuition pricing, and cost control to ensure access and affordability for all students.

Let's explore some of these innovative approaches, including income share agreements (ISAs), micro-scholarships, tuition resets, shared services, and energy efficiency measures. We will share case studies of colleges and universities that have successfully implemented these approaches and provide recommendations for other institutions to consider. By taking a comprehensive approach to managing the rising cost of higher education, colleges and universities can ensure that all students have access to a quality education that prepares them for success in their chosen fields.

Innovative Approaches to Financial Aid

Traditional financial aid models, such as grants, loans, and scholarships, have long been used to help students pay for college. However, these models have limitations, particularly for students from low-income backgrounds who may still struggle to afford college even with financial aid. In response, colleges and universities are exploring innovative approaches to financial aid that aim to reduce the financial burden on students and make college more affordable.

One such approach is income share agreements (ISAs), which allow students to pay a percentage of their income after graduation in exchange for funding their education. ISAs are designed to reduce the upfront costs of college and help students avoid taking on large amounts of debt. Instead, students pay a percentage of their income for a set period of time, typically 5-10 years. If a student's income falls below a certain threshold, payments may be deferred or forgiven altogether.

Another innovative approach to financial aid is micro-scholarships, which are small amounts of funding awarded to students for specific achievements, such as earning high grades or participating in extracurricular activities. Micro-scholarships are designed to motivate and reward students for their efforts and provide a financial boost to help them afford college.

Emergency aid funds are also becoming increasingly popular as a way to help students with unexpected expenses, such as a medical emergency or car repair. Emergency aid funds provide short-term financial assistance to students in need, helping them stay enrolled in college and continue their education.

Colleges and universities are also exploring ways to make financial aid more transparent and accessible. Some institutions are using technology to help students better understand their financial aid options and how much college will cost. This includes online calculators that estimate the cost of attendance and financial aid packages, as well as tools that allow students to compare the cost of different colleges and universities.

By exploring innovative approaches to financial aid, colleges and universities can help reduce the financial burden on students and make college more affordable and accessible to all.

Tuition Pricing Strategies

Tuition is one of the biggest expenses associated with higher education, and the rising cost of tuition has made college increasingly unaffordable for many students. In response, colleges and universities are exploring new pricing strategies to make tuition more affordable and transparent.

One such strategy is tuition resets, which involve lowering the sticker price of tuition to make college more affordable for students. This approach can be particularly effective for small, private colleges that are struggling to attract students due to high tuition costs. By lowering tuition, colleges can increase enrollment and revenue, while also reducing the financial burden on students.

Another innovative tuition pricing strategy is guaranteed tuition, which provides students with a set tuition rate for the duration of their enrollment. This approach can help students better plan for their education expenses and avoid unexpected tuition hikes. Additionally, some institutions are experimenting with income-based tuition, which adjusts tuition rates based on a student's income or financial need.

Colleges and universities are also exploring ways to make tuition pricing more transparent and easier to understand. Some institutions are using online calculators to estimate the true cost of attending college, taking into account factors such as room and board, books and supplies, and other expenses. Additionally, some institutions are implementing "no surprises" policies that guarantee that the price of tuition will not increase unexpectedly during a student's enrollment.

Cost Control Strategies

In addition to exploring new approaches to financial aid and tuition pricing, colleges and universities are also implementing cost control strategies to reduce the overall cost of higher education. These strategies include shared services, energy efficiency measures, and digital transformation.

Shared services involve pooling resources across departments or institutions to reduce costs and improve efficiency. For example, multiple colleges or universities could share administrative services, such as human resources or IT, to reduce the overall cost of these services. This approach can also help institutions avoid duplication of efforts and free up resources for other initiatives.

Energy efficiency measures are another cost control strategy that can help institutions reduce their operating costs and environmental impact. This includes measures such as upgrading to energy-efficient lighting and HVAC systems, as well as implementing renewable energy sources such as solar panels. Not only do these measures reduce operating costs, but they also demonstrate an institution's commitment to sustainability and environmental responsibility.

Finally, digital transformation can help colleges and universities streamline processes and reduce costs associated with paper-based workflows. This includes implementing digital forms and workflows, as well as utilizing digital tools for communication and collaboration. By reducing paper-based processes, institutions can save money on printing and storage costs, while also improving the efficiency and accuracy of their operations.

Ensuring Access and Affordability for All Students

While financial aid and cost control strategies can help reduce the overall cost of higher education, many students still struggle to afford college. To ensure access and affordability for all students, colleges and universities are exploring innovative approaches to financial support and outreach.

One such approach is need-based financial aid, which provides grants or scholarships to students based on their financial need. This approach can help reduce the financial burden on students and make college more affordable for those who may not otherwise be able to attend.

Another approach is merit-based financial aid, which provides scholarships or grants to students based on their academic or extracurricular achievements. This approach can help attract and retain high-performing students, while also providing financial support to those who may not qualify for need-based aid.

In addition to financial aid, colleges and universities are also investing in outreach initiatives to ensure that all students are aware of the financial support and resources available to them. This includes providing information on scholarships, grants, and other financial aid opportunities, as well as offering financial literacy programs to help students better manage their finances.

Furthermore, some institutions are also exploring alternative pathways to a degree, such as online programs or competency-based education, which can help reduce the overall cost of higher education while still providing students with valuable credentials.