Good morning, and thank you for making time in your busy schedules to join us today.
For those gathered here who don’t already know me, I am Sharon Hirsh, president of Rosemont College.
In addition to students, faculty and staff, we are also joined today by members of the news media. That’s because we have a major announcement to share with you today, news that will not only affect all of you in this room, but could have an impact across the nation.
Today, Rosemont College is announcing a bold step we have named Our Tuition Promise: Starting next school year, we are reducing tuition by 43 percent. Tuition will drop from more than $32,000 to $18,500.
In addition, we will also be reducing room and board from $13,400 to $11,500 – a reduction of 14 percent.
That means that a year of undergraduate education at Rosemont, for a student living on campus, will drop from $46,020 to $30,000.
This reduction will apply to every undergraduate student at Rosemont, not just our new students next year.
I know this is very dramatic and exciting news. But before you all run out of here to call your parents or tweet your friends, please stay with me for a few more minutes. It is just as important – perhaps even more important – that you understand the reasons why we are doing this.
We are taking this step for two very important reasons – and they happen to be related to one another.
First, we want families to understand that they can afford a Rosemont education. Right now, we know that many, many families cross Rosemont off of their list as soon as they see our current published tuition price.
Which brings me to the second – even more critical – reason we are taking this step.
The current tuition pricing model that we, and almost all colleges across the nation, follow is badly broken. Rosemont has decided to do something about it. We are stepping up as a leader and taking action to restore clarity and forthrightness to the confusing world of college finance.
I’m going to put on my teacher’s hat for a moment and give you a quick lesson on why the current system is broken.
All of you know that tuition at most colleges and universities has been increasing at a rate that is outpacing inflation. This has been in the news for quite a long time. Most schools have also been spending a greater percentage of their institutional dollars to fund student aid, in order to compensate for the higher tuition prices for most students.
But here’s the part you may not know: The price that colleges advertise as their tuition price is not a real price. It is an artificial sticker price.
Not many people understand that a college’s published sticker price is one that most students never end up paying.
Let me share with you an infographic that we developed to accompany the news release going out today on Our Tuition Promise.
As you can see, the average cost of tuition at a private, four-year college is now $31,320.
But right below that price tag is a very revealing statistic of what students actually pay: Only 11 percent of first-year students pay the full sticker price when they get to college. 89 percent of first-year students pay a discounted price.
And, as the bottom number reveals, the average discount from the tuition sticker price is 48 percent. Stop and think about that for a moment – most private colleges say it costs X for tuition, but the majority of students are paying one-half of X.
“How is that possible?” you may be wondering.
Colleges offer discounts to students, in the form of grants and scholarships, that bring the price of tuition down. Many colleges use these grants and scholarships to persuade students to pick their school rather than a competitor college.
Every year, tuition gets raised at colleges so that they keep up with inflation, but also so that they have more grant and scholarship money to offset the published price – and to lure more students to their campus.
But here’s the important point: This money is not real money. And the result is that we are trapped in a never-ending, continuously escalating cycle of rising tuition and rising discounts.
Rosemont College has decided we are no longer playing this game.
Now I have to explain one thing that is different at Rosemont. Most colleges discount their published price by offering merit aid. We at Rosemont don’t use much of our grants and scholarships this way; 80 percent of our aid goes to students in need, a percentage that at most schools is under half.
But, we, too, have been captive to this model of ever-rising tuition and discounts.
We spent several years of research and soul-searching while tracking this national trend, after which our Board of Trustees spent a number of months studying this issue – and, together, we came to this conclusion.
We owe it to you, our students, as well as our future students, and every family who is searching for a private college, faith-based experience to publish the TRUE cost of tuition, not the artificial one. That is our tuition promise – to make our sticker price the true tuition price. We have chosen to do the right thing, a step that is very consistent with Rosemont’s values and mission.
So, what does this mean for all of you?
First, every undergraduate student on this campus will save money next year. From a minimum of $100 to, in some cases, many thousands of dollars, every student will be paying less next year than they are this year. The average savings will be more than $800.
I tell you this with great pride, because not every college that has reset its tuition has done so in a way that resulted in real savings for their students. In Rosemont’s case, it was extremely important to us that our tuition reduction not just be a reduction on paper – we wanted it to be a true reduction in dollars, as well.
At the end of this assembly, a customized packet of information will be available to every current student. In it, you will find detailed information about your financial package next year, under the new pricing. In fact, you will see 2 packages, one with and one without Our Tuition Promise. We will have financial aid experts available throughout the day, and in the coming weeks, to meet with you and your family, to make sure you understand your particular package. After you’ve received and reviewed your package, you can call Mom and Dad to share that good news with them.
I’m sure some of you are wondering what this means for financial aid.
It is not disappearing!
If your family qualifies for assistance under the new tuition price of $18,500, you will receive it in the form of federal, state (if you are a Pennsylvania resident) and Rosemont grants. But, in many cases, you will see that the scholarships and grants that were being offered in order to help you “close the gap” between what you could afford and what our “old” tuition price was, are no longer necessary. Remember, the old tuition price – along with the discounts in the form of scholarships and grants – were never real money.
Under the new, true tuition price, many students will not need as much of a discount as they did before. But for those who do, it is available. Rosemont has always had a reputation for being accessible and for helping students who might not otherwise be able to attend college. That will not change.
One of the benefits of Rosemont’s move will be a shift in the conversations we will be having with prospective students. Instead of fielding months of calls from families wondering what their financial package will look like, we’ll be able to talk with students about our amazing science and pre-health programs, or our dual degrees or our three-year programs. I’d also be thrilled to introduce them to some of our outstanding professors, or talk about our beautiful campus or our NCAA Division III sports teams.
That really excites me and the admissions staff.
And we think it will be exciting to families, educators and the public, as well.
To help spread the word, starting tomorrow, Rosemont will launch an advertising campaign in the region. You will begin seeing Rosemont on television – yes, television! – along with some clever billboards in high-traffic areas around the City and region. Some of the advertising will occur in Center City Philadelphia during the Pope’s visit, which will put Rosemont’s name and Our Tuition Promise right in front of a very receptive audience.
I’d like to play the television spot for you and show you an example of the billboards that you will be seeing.
I know this is a lot to take in about a subject that is very complex and confusing. Students, I encourage you to spend time studying your customized package of information and please speak to our financial aid experts if there’s anything you don’t understand.
If there’s one thing I’d most like you to remember about today’s announcement, it’s not just that we are dramatically reducing the price of tuition (although that is some pretty exciting news, isn’t it?).
Rather, it is that your college – mighty, little Rosemont College – became one of the first in the nation to say, “Enough.” Rosemont was bold enough to say, “We’re not going to play this game anymore. It’s not helping anyone, least of all our students and families.”
This, to me, is the epitome of “the POWER of small.”
Will other colleges follow Rosemont? We would be thrilled to know that our announcement today will stimulate a national conversation and that we’re going to be hearing about many more tuition readjustments in the months and years to come.
Thank you for coming, and thank you for your support of this exciting program.
I would be happy to answer any questions you might have.