The freeze is on… 2 colleges promise no 2009 tuition increase

In a market sensitive response to present and impending economic constraints, two colleges have already announced that they will not increase tuition in 2009.

  • Merrimack College trustees voted December 9 to hold tuition steady while also increasing financial aid by $1 million… and they’re receiving good press coverage. Read the official announcement at and the example of good press.
  • Benedictine University moved even earlier when trustees approved a similar freeze on October 16. The announcement is at

Of course, this is not the step that most schools want to take. For now, the standard response is that “we’re studying the situation and we’ll announce something next year.”

What other schools do may well depend on their real or perceived strength in the market place and the action of others in their peer group. But expect pressure to rise for more tuition freezes. Or, as one respondent to President Michael Roth’s October blog entry at Wesleyan University wrote, “Since so many students and families are struggling in these difficult times, I would hope that there will at a minimum be a freeze in tuition, or even consideration to a decrease for next year.”  

Private colleges and universities have benefitted from the easy availability of credit, especially home equity loans, these past few years. They’ve been able to raise tuition above inflation rates, while average family incomes have not risen relative to inflation and many have declined. That’s over now. Done. Gone.

Will Merrimack and Benedictine be early adopters or just isolated examples? We’ll know the answer to that between now and March 1. And it just may well depend on what admissions people are reporting to their presidents between now and then as the student recruitment cycle unfolds.


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