Are Colleges Reducing Tuition Due to COVID-19?

By Brandon Swenson October 29, 2020

As college tuition prices continue to climb and COVID-19 shakes the education system, prospective students around the world have been forced to seriously reconsider their plans for higher education. While it may be easy to blame current economic conditions for the skyrocketing cost of college tuition, this is a trend that has been a long time in the making. Compared to the 1971-1972 academic year, the cost of a four-year degree in 2020 has more than tripled. Just within the 2019-2020 academic year, tuition rates increased by 3.4%, a change that represents over a thousand dollars per student. And this year, these inflating costs have been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many universities are eliminating funding as a result of lost revenue, while some are raising tuition even higher to compensate for the losses.

Institutions like UA Grantham, however, are taking considerable measures to mitigate the drastic increase in tuition and the corresponding increase in projected student debt. Some have frozen or temporarily lowered tuition to encourage enrollment, while others have decided to become more flexible in everything from semester length to payment plans. Travel restrictions and social distancing requirements have led to an enhanced focus on online learning, either on its own or combined with in-person coursework. Many students are discovering that online classes have equal value to on-campus classes, but with more adaptability and greater opportunity for personalization. Some have even decided to put a pause on their college plans, taking a gap year to pursue other opportunities. At UA Grantham, we are focusing on offering an affordable education with flexibility in our courses, so students can continue to build their future while protecting their community.


What College Students Can Expect in the 2020-2021 Academic Year 

Whether attending classes in-person or online, students can expect a number of changes in this year’s college experience. With a focus on social distancing as a means of controlling the spread of COVID-19, class sizes will decrease, as will the number of students housed in each dormitory. Travel restrictions have all but eliminated the opportunity for international students, and some colleges will likely be forced to make layoffs or even close entirely. Decreased density and diversity will undoubtedly have an impact on the daily lives of students, as well as university culture.

The most significant change students can expect this year is the transition from in-person to online learning. This trend has been going strong for over a decade, but the global pandemic has made online education critical for the success of both institutions and their students. Colleges with existing online degree programs will display an advantage over those just now scrambling to convert to digital coursework. They already possess the infrastructure and support services necessary for success in an online environment, meaning they will require little adapting to the current educational climate. Students experienced in online learning will benefit from this stability, and online learning among established institutions will likely remain much the same, other than increased demand. At Grantham, our classes run in eight-week courses that start every month. We know that the times we are living in demand optimal flexibility. Because of this, we are prepared to give our students the opportunity to learn on a schedule that suits their unique situation. Since there are no set class times at UA Grantham, you start your courses at a convenient time for your lifestyle that fits into your own daily schedule. Our one-on-one student advisors help you create a schedule that is perfect for any circumstance.


Tuition Freezes 

Over the past four decades, tuition rates have increased an astonishing 300%. During the past ten years, tuition rose 26% in private four-year colleges and 35% in public four-year colleges. In some states, tuition has doubled in this period. While tuition increases exponentially, the median family income of most Americans has not followed the same pattern. State funding cuts to higher education have forced colleges to make up for lost funds by overcharging students. These rising costs have led many prospective students to forego enrollment, causing decreased revenue for colleges and further driving up tuition. On top of it all, COVID-19 has led to an unprecedented loss in revenue. For example, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, which includes 14 colleges, has reported a projected $100 million loss due to refunded room and board costs and other fees.

To compensate for their losses, some institutions have decided to freeze tuition or prevent it from increasing. Tuition rates rise an average of 3% each year, which can equate to thousands of dollars. With tuition comprising half of a college’s annual revenue, these changes have wide-reaching consequences. Freezing tuition will benefit students and families facing financial uncertainty, providing a small but valuable measure of stability. Some individuals who would not otherwise have been able to afford a college education may take advantage of this short-term opportunity for cost-saving.

Tuition at UA Grantham University is one of the benefits that our students find most appealing. Not only is our tuition among the lowest in the United States, but we offer an array of scholarships and financial aid opportunities. If you are a veteran or active military member, we offer discounted tuition in appreciation of your service. The same thing goes for health care workers. We know you have been the soldiers on the front lines of this pandemic. We offer lower tuition so you can advance your education and continue helping others.


Fee Reductions 

Some institutions have decided to reduce fees to lower the cost of attending and encourage higher enrollment numbers. Many fees that are included in the cost of college tuition, such as student activity fees or room and board, will be waived in the coming academic year. With more students choosing online instruction over in-person classes, it has become essential for colleges to adapt to the changing needs of their students, which means recognizing many of these fees are obsolete.

Even with tuition freezes and reduced fees, many students are concerned with the high cost of in-person education. Those who were enrolled in classes when COVID-19 caused shut-downs were kicked off campus, removing their access to dorms, cafeterias, athletic courts and other facilities they already paid for. This has led some to file class-action lawsuits against their universities, requesting tuition and fee refunds. Many argue that online learning is not the same quality as in-person instruction, so they should not be expected to pay the same tuition and fees.


Student Transfers on the Increase 

It has become clear that the majority of instruction for the fall 2020 semester will be conducted online, which has caused many students to transfer from traditional institutions to online degree programs. As costs have already skyrocketed over the past few decades, many students and their families find it impractical to pay in-person tuition rates for classes that have to be conducted online for safety reasons. And with many families facing financial difficulties due to the coronavirus, including lost employment and subsequently lost health insurance benefits, they have less funding available for expensive tuition bills. In lieu of continuing their traditional education or enrolling in online school, some students have chosen to defer enrollment or take a gap year until the educational climate returns to some level of normalcy.

If taking a gap year is not an option you wish to consider, UA Grantham has adapted our program to accept a wide range of transfer credits. We know how disappointing it can be to lose the money you have already spent to take classes when you choose to transfer to another school. We appreciate the opportunity to help you finish your education and gain earning potential. We also offer credit for life experience and training, so be sure to reach out and discover what we can do for you.


Online Education on the Uptick 

Online degree programs have experienced unmatched growth over the past few months due to the global pandemic. An online education through an accredited institution has many benefits—it allows students to advance their learning and increase future earning potential in an adaptable, personalized format. Students are able to save thousands of dollars in tuition and eliminate transportation costs. They can coordinate study time around work and household responsibilities, resulting in greater efficiency and further cost-effectiveness.

Students around the country will face dramatic changes in their education during the 2020-2021 academic year. Colleges are freezing tuition and reducing fees, but for many, this is not enough. Online education is increasingly appealing, especially as more institutions are focusing on the development of digital learning platforms. If you’re seeking affordable, flexible education opportunities, consider one of UA Grantham’s more than 40 online degree programs. And when you’re ready, reach out to an admissions expert to take the first step.

About the Author

Brandon Swenson
Brandon Swenson, communications manager, is on University of Arkansas Grantham’s editorial board. A veteran and college graduate himself, he understands the benefits and intricacies of government education programs, such as veteran education benefits. Brandon earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City toward the end of his nearly two-decade tour in the United States Marine Corps.
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