- Liberty University, in Virginia, is freezing tuition and room and board costs for the 2019-20 academic year and offering a new scholarship for middle-income students. The university lists tuition at $23,800, with room and board starting at around $8,300. This is the first time in a decade the college has frozen tuition.
- The new Middle America Scholarship is aimed at students whose families earn $35,000 to $95,000 annually and have an estimated expected contribution of $1 to $18,000. Combined with another university scholarship, it will provide about $5,000 in aid.
- Other support comes from the local Stay Close, Go Far Promise Scholarship that provides up to $8,000 to students who attended local public high schools if they enroll at one of six universities, and Liberty is giving an extra $8,000 to help pay for meal plans.
A shrinking college-age population and low unemployment rates have cut the number of potential students by nearly 3 million since 2011, while surveys show a general decline in confidence in the value of higher education, according to The Hechinger Report. It lists about a dozen colleges that have frozen or reduced tuition for some or all students.
In the decade ending in 2016, college tuition and fees were up 63%, which is triple the rate of other items tracked by the Consumer Price Index, according to the publication. State funding for public institutions also has decreased dramatically in many states during that period.
Some critics of tuition cuts or resets say the moves could backfire by putting the institutions in a worse financial situation and reducing their ability to offer financial aid, discouraging some students from applying.
In Ohio, some colleges froze tuition in recent years as required by a state law, but several are increasing it again under a provision that allows them to do so as long as students' costs stay flat for the four years they attend. About 50 institutions have reset tuition over the last decade, Forbes reported.
There has been an increasing focus on low- and middle-income students by public and private institutions. Jim Ryan, the University of Virginia's new president, last month announced free tuition for in-state students whose families earn less than $80,000 per year. Rice University also recently announced full-tuition scholarships for students from middle-income families, in this case those earning between $65,000 to $130,000 per year, while halving tuition for students with family incomes from $130,000 to $200,000. And the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign announced this summer free tuition for qualifying students with family incomes up to $61,000 annually.