Tuition at the private Catholic college Belmont Abbey was set to rise by about 5 percent next year to $29,000. Instead, the school announced Wednesday that it's actually going to lower tuition for incoming and transfer students by $10,000.
It's what some colleges have begun to call a "tuition reset." A few colleges and universities have announced drastic tuition cuts.
While some want to boost enrollment numbers, Belmont Abbey's president Bill Thierfelder wants to match tuition the actual cost of a student attending the college.
"I think the reason that this has not come about sooner because for some reason, up till now, the sticker price has come to define or determine the quality of the educational experience," Thierfelder says. "It really doesn't have anything to do with it and it just makes sense to me to have greater transparency and make this accessible to more people."
A recent study by the College Board found that more than half of college-bound high school seniors decided where to apply based on sticker price alone, without considering financial aid. So Belmont Abbey officials had another thought.
"Let's just reduce it down closer to what students are actually going to pay to come to college rather than do this kind of gymnastics of here's your sticker price and now we're going to give you all these awards to make it more possible for you to attend," Thierfelder says.
So Belmont Abbey is resetting it's tuition to $18,500 per year in the fall of 2013 and will adjust financial aid packages accordingly.
There aren't enough colleges doing this to qualify it as a trend, but Patrick Callan says he hopes more colleges adopt this attitude – for their own benefit. He's the president of the Higher Education Policy Institute in San Jose, California.
"You cannot continue to increase tuition at the rate that it's going up now, faster than inflation, faster than family income, faster than the American economy is growing and expect to survive over the long term," Callan says. "And so the fact that colleges and universities are taking this realistic approach to this before they get into serious trouble you know five or ten years from now, is a positive thing."
About 1,700 students attend Belmont Abbey. The school expects to award $5 million in financial aid next year.