For the second year in a row, tuition at Roger Williams University will remain at $29,976, not including fees, room or board. Undergraduates who enroll in the 2014-15 academic year with that rate and remain continuously enrolled will also be charged that fixed amount for four years at the Bristol university.
At only one other private college in Rhode Island is there anything like that offered – the New England Institute of Technology. The school has raised rates on and off for the past 31 years but guarantees that once enrolled and continuously in attendance, students will lock in the tuition rate and fees they start with for the duration of their associate or bachelor’s degree program.
Although tuition and fees rose by 2.9 percent to $21,900 in the 2013-14 academic year, “the tuition is really frozen for the student” going forward, said Bob Theroux, vice president of finance and business administration at the East Greenwich institution.
For both schools’ presidents, the chief motivation has been to give students and parents one more reason to commit to a college education, especially in economically trying times.
“We’re not trying to sell the campus on the basis of price,” said RWU President Donald J. Farish. “What we’re trying to do is focus on value, and the value comes from the educational outcomes, which are designed to ensure as best we can that students will be successful when they graduate.”
NEIT’s fixed tuition freeze “was created to support the large number of students at NEIT that were first-time college students within their families,” NEIT President Richard Gouse told Providence Business News in an emailed statement. “At the time it was initiated, a large portion of the population was from blue-collar families and [it] provided some financial relief and allowed the students and their families to plan for the cost of their education.”
But Farish is the first to also acknowledge that, aside from the influence of demographics, the Great Recession and a slight drop in enrollment in the 2012-13 academic year, the proposition of freezing tuition and locking in that rate for four years is one he’s just as often had to defend as promote.
“I get this a lot,” he said, of the question, “Why aren’t more schools doing this?”
“The less polite way of saying it is, ‘If this is such a good idea, why isn’t everybody else doing it?’ I think it is because people are afraid to step away from what they know. [Some] might interpret this as, ‘They’re desperate.’ We’ve already heard from people saying, ‘Their quality will go down because they don’t have the money.’ The challenge is to diversify your revenue stream and not rely entirely on tuition.”