And the discount rate is going up. Inside Higher Ed reported that the discount rate has risen 20 percent in just seven years: from 39 percent in 2007 to 48 percent last year.
Moreover, at many schools, nearly everyone gets a discount. As explained by Inside Higher Ed, 69 percent of the colleges surveyed by NACUBO offered discounts to 90 percent or more of their students last year.
As many experts have pointed out, heavily discounting tuition rates is not sustainable. In fact, heavy discount rates are a sure sign that a college is in trouble. Sweetbriar College, for example, which closed (and then reopened) last year, was discounting its tuition price by 62 percent, but still couldn't attract enough students to keep its doors open.
NACUBO's survey determined that almost 10 percent of private colleges discounted their tuition prices by an astounding 60 percent, surely a bad sign for all the colleges that discount at that level. “If your discount rate is at 60 percent, that's a very dangerous warning sign,” observed David Breneman, former Dean of the University of Virginia's school of education (as quoted in Inside Higher Ed). “If you were any other business of any other sort [you wouldn’t] think you were in a very good position.”
What does this mean for higher education in general? At least three things:
1) First, a liberal arts education at a non-elite private college is not worth what colleges have been charging, and everyone knows it.
2) Second, heavy discounts are destroying colleges' credibility. When 90 percent of students are getting a discount and when discount rates average nearly 50 percent, everyone know that colleges have posted deceptive sticker prices for their tuition. They've become like Texas fireworks peddlers: "Buy 1 and get 6 free!"
3) Third, a lot of small, nondescript private colleges will close in the coming years. A Moody's report on colleges' financial viability predicted that college closures will triple by 2015, which would mean about 15 colleges will close that year. But surely that figure is too conservative.
Personally, I think we will see many private liberal arts schools closing in the coming years. The economics of getting a liberal arts degree from an obscure private college just don't make sense anymore. In fact, if it weren't for the federal student loan program, which is propping up the private-college sector, half of them would be closed already.
|Discounting college tuition prices: Buy 1, Get 6 free!|
Kelly Woodhouse. (2015, November 25). Discount Much? Inside Higher Ed. Accessible at: https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2015/11/25/what-it-might-mean-when-colleges-discount-rate-tops-60-percent?utm_source=Inside+Higher+Ed&utm_campaign=389f6fe14e-DNU20151125&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_1fcbc04421-389f6fe14e-198565653