Columbia College is bucking the trend of rising educational costs.
The private, predominantly female college announced Thursday it will cut annual tuition by 33 percent, from the current $28,900 to $19,500.
The lower tuition will apply to full-time students in the college’s traditional undergraduate program starting with the 2017-18 academic year. The school currently has about 640 full-time residential students, with nearly 1,000 more enrolled in online, evening, and graduate studies programs.
Adding in the cost of room and board, which now stands at $7,900 a year, the change will bring the total cost of attending Columbia College to $27,400, which is $1,500 less than the current cost of tuition alone.
“This move aligns the institution’s ‘sticker price’ more closely with the average net cost to attend,” school officials said in a news release.
With this tuition reduction, Columbia College is addressing the national issue of college affordability, while also taking steps to simplify the price of tuition, officials said.
“The college’s culture of innovative and forward-thinking allows us to take this step,” said Beth Dinndorf, president of Columbia College. “As a result, we have the opportunity to significantly decrease our tuition price while still maintaining and improving the high quality and lasting value that a Columbia College degree holds.”
“The tuition reboot will ensure that the value of a private education can be accessed by any student who seeks to obtain a higher education degree,” college officials said in their announcement. “Just as we challenge our students to be change agents for good, we commit ourselves to shifting the current academic and fiscal climate to focus on real value in terms of both cost and quality of outcomes.”
Officials said the new tuition level of $19,500 will position Columbia College with one of the lowest prices of any four-year private college or university in the region and will be comparable with total costs at premier public universities both in and out of state.
Institutional scholarships and need-based financial aid will continue to be awarded to Columbia College students, lowering the cost for some students even further from the published price.
“While Columbia College may not be the first private institution to scale back tuition, we are leading the market in accessibility and outcomes,” said Dinndorf. “Our tuition reboot is an intentional and progressive step toward providing an exceptional private college education at an affordable price.”
This election season, college affordability and student-debt burden have been a major campaign topic, especially among Democrats, with former candidates such Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders calling for free public university tuition, and Hillary Clinton later making a vow before she was defeated Tuesday to make it possible for students to graduate debt-free.
Earlier this year, the University of South Carolina raised tuition 3.25 percent, the largest increase in five years. Clemson University trustees agreed to raise in-state tuition this year by 3.14 percent. Universities throughout the state have raised tuition and other costs as well.
Officials at USC and Clemson have blamed cost-of-living increases and state-employee pay hikes approved earlier this year by lawmakers as major reasons for the tuition bumps.
State-supported colleges also receive less from the state legislature than they once did, especially since the 2007-08 Great Recession. However, tuition increases have been common for decades. USC, for instance, has raised its tuition each year since 1987.