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Utica College decides to lower tuition for all students

David Chanatry
New York Reporting Project at Utica College

While the cost of a higher education has continued to rise across the United States, one small private college in central NY is attempting to buck that trend.

The affordability of college education has come under increased scrutiny from lawmakers and parents alike. Utica College President Todd Hutton announced plans yesterday to help change that.

“It gives me great honor to share with you that beginning in the fall of 2016, Utica College will reset its published price of tuition and fees from $35,514 to under $20,000," Hutton said.

And that’s before financial aid. Few students actually pay the full load, but the published price can produce sticker shock, and keep some from even applying. Hutton says cutting tuition is the right thing to do.

“Americans need to know that a quality higher education is within their financial reach,” said Hutton. “We know, and I see it every year, that students can’t afford to come here, or when they get here, something happens and they can’t stay. That’s just not right.”

On a campus where graduates average $40,000 in debt, the announcement was big news. The price change applies to current and new students, starting in the fall. So everyone except graduating seniors will benefit.

“I’m going to have a little less debt when I graduate. Any money I’m saving is a good thing,” said freshman Madison Babbits.

The amount students save will vary depending on their financial aid, but all will save at least $1,000 a year. While state and federal aid remains the same, the college makes the budget work by proportionally reducing the grants it offers.

That will cost the school about $2 million the first year. But after years of increasing enrollment and a record freshman class, college officials say now is the time to make the investment.

Dr. Jeffrey Gates, vice president for enrollment, says the college will make up some cost by retaining students who otherwise would have left U.C.

“They’re leaving because they have a gap of $1,500 or $2,000 or even $3,000 and that’s just too much of a burden to bear,” said Gates.

A tuition reset isn’t without risk for the college. In fact, most of the schools that have tried it have failed. But after two years of study and analysis, the college feels now is the time to fix a pricing model that’s broken.

This story is part of the New York Reporting Project at Utica College. You can read more of the project's storiesat their website, nyrp-uc.org.