- To counter flagging enrollment, the University of Virginia's rural College at Wise could cut tuition for out-of-state students from the Appalachia region to a rate close to what state residents pay, according to The Daily Progress. The posted full-time tuition rate is $10,119 for in-state students and is $27,846 for most out-of-state students. The college is centrally located in Appalachia, which spans 13 states.
- Officials at Wise said adding 50 students as a result of the decision could yield an additional $4 million for the college and $650,000 in local impact over four years. They hope the change will bring in 100 additional students. The college enrolled 1,187 degree-seeking and 879 non-degree-seeking students this fall, down from 2,420 students in 2012.
- The University of Virginia Board of Visitors, which oversees Wise, indicated it would approve such a move, and Republican lawmakers in the state House and Senate are underway with legislation proposing the change. That would pave the way for new rates in the 2018-19 academic year.
In the delicate effort to bolster shrinking student enrollment and college budgets, more institutions have decided to cut tuition sticker prices, gambling the move will more than pay for itself by adding students to campus.
Changing demographics, rising tuition costs and questions about the value of higher education were all contributing to a significant decline in enrollment, The Hechinger Report wrote in August. While that is causing public and private institutions to lower their posted tuition rates, they are often simultaneously cutting financial aid. Because most students don't actually pay sticker price, only the wealthiest students feel the effects of those changes.
U.S. News and World Report data show that 20 private colleges appearing on its annual ranking had lower posted tuition and fees in 2018-19 than in 2013-14, putting the average rate for those colleges at roughly $24,569 — about 31% lower than the overall average for private colleges in the survey. Most were regional institutions with more than half enrolling fewer than 1,500 students for the 2017-18 academic year.
The average discount rate for first-time, full-time freshmen for 2017-18 was about 50%, according to the National Association of College and University Business Officers.
Yet, one study cited by The Hechinger Report showed only about half of institutions to cut tuition saw revenue rise as a result.
If the College at Wise lowers its tuition rate for Appalachian students, it would join others in the area to make moves to cut the cost of attendance for a wider range of students. Liberty University and the University of Virginia have recently announced lower tuition for low- and middle-income students.
In nearby North Carolina, portions of which are in Appalachia, a state "promise" program has reduced in-state, per-semester tuition to $500 at three rural universities in the state's public university system. Kentucky's private, Baptist University of the Cumberlands, also in Appalachia, announced this fall that it was more than halving posted undergraduate tuition.