Jenna Robinson’s latest Martin Center column focuses on the potential positive impact of cutting college tuition costs.
In the past few years, large public universities have garnered headlines by freezing tuition. Purdue University, the Pennsylvania State System, and every public four-year university in Virginia have all frozen tuition and fees. And three University of North Carolina schools—UNC Pembroke, Western Carolina University, and Elizabeth City State University—have cut tuition to $500 per semester for in-state students. That reduction is a boon to students and parents who must foot the tuition bill. But it is made easier by taxpayer subsidies; state universities aren’t entirely tuition-dependent for their revenues.
Small private universities often find it more difficult to keep tuition down, but it can be done. Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina is one example. Belmont Abbey cut tuition 33 percent in 2013-2014, to $18,500, where it has stayed for six years. In an interview with the Martin Center, Belmont Abbey president Bill Thierfelder and CFO Allan Mark explained how and why they made such a dramatic change.
Thierfelder said that making tuition affordable has always been a priority for him. When he arrived at Belmont Abbey in 2004, he cut tuition for the college’s non-traditional program. As a Catholic institution, Belmont Abbey has always prioritized keeping its doors open—a tradition that began with the Benedictine monks who founded the institution. Belmont Abbey has always attracted students from the middle class and those with large families. Keeping it affordable was a necessity.