Dear faculty and staff colleagues,
Here we are at the end of the semester already. I hope that each of you has had a rewarding and productive semester and I very much look forward to celebrating the holidays with you tomorrow at our annual faculty and staff holiday party.
We have accomplished a lot this semester and we have much to celebrate. The ongoing work of our Deep Dive strategic planning teams this semester has culminated in 17 reports with recommendations from the phase four work, which are currently being reviewed by the Deep Dive Steering Team.
Today, I’d like to share with you some important news that has resulted from the work of the Tuition and Pricing Strategy Implementation Design Deep Dive Team. Recognizing that Albright’s pricing model had become unsustainable for middle income students of academic promise, this team has spent six months extensively exploring Albright data, peer data and higher education pricing data. Nine different pricing models were studied by the team and the pros and cons of each were carefully considered. In late November, the team made a bold and important recommendation — to right-size Albright’s tuition. This recommendation was shared and discussed with the Deep Dive Steering Team, the Sustainable Financial Model Deep Dive Team, and the Faculty Budget Subcommittee. After extensive modeling on impacts on our financial situation and on student financial aid, I recommended to our board of trustees on Monday evening that we implement this recommendation for all students in fall 2019. After discussion, the board approved my recommendation.
So what does this all mean and why is this such an important step forward for us?
As we know from a study of income mobility published in the New York Times, an Albright education helps a significant number of our graduates move up two or more income levels — among the highest movement compared to other Pennsylvania schools and selective private colleges across the nation. While we are all proud to make such a difference in the lives of our students, we know that the financial road to a college degree is a burden for many.
In line with traditional higher education practices, Albright has historically raised tuition annually (by an average of 4% each of the last 10 years), significantly outpacing the growth of median family income. This practice does not align with our commitment to educating students of academic promise for success in lives and careers.
It is this commitment to educating students of promise and to our belief that the life-changing benefits of an Albright education must be equally available to talented, determined students across the broadest range of socioeconomic backgrounds that are driving our actions to right-size tuition. In an era in which family incomes have stagnated and higher education costs have outpaced incomes, we are taking important steps to close the gap and make education affordable.
So, beginning with the 2019-20 academic year, Albright will break from its traditional model and will right-size its tuition by reducing it 45 percent, from $44,206 to $24,500. The extensive modeling that was done on impacts to our financial situation indicates that this pricing strategy change should not negatively impact our financial situation. The modeling was done two ways and it was built on past information, so all caveats apply, of course, but we are confident that this is a positive balance between affordability and fiscal responsibility.
As we know, very few students pay the full price of Albright’s tuition. Right-sizing tuition helps us to be more transparent about today’s higher education costs, and aims to reduce the tuition gap for returning sophomore, junior and senior students. But it is not perfect.
Albright students who currently pay more than $38,122 (based on tuition, standard double room and gold meal plan) will benefit from a decrease in what they pay. Room, board and the student services fee will increase by $452 for all students for academic year 2019-2020; thus, a number of current students will still see an increase in overall cost. However, this increase will be much smaller than it would have been had the college continued its trend of raising tuition by 4%. Families should be aware that a cost reduction of this size will result in financial aid scaling that aligns with our new tuition right-sizing.
Currently, Albright offers significant financial aid to first year students, but little need-based institutional aid to cover year-to-year tuition increases for sophomore, junior and senior students. And as tuition rises, need-based federal grant aid usually does not change for these students, often creating unanticipated bills. New research shows that this is most troubling for middle income families.
So the real value of lowering tuition today will be twofold: significantly smaller actual-dollar tuition increases in the future and our commitment to accessibility will expand with a new scholarship fundraising initiative for rising sophomores, juniors and seniors.
A message to current students and families about this new tuition model has just been sent, so you are likely to receive questions from your students when they return for Interim session. We have set up a phone number that helps students determine where to go with questions. The number is 610-921-7515. A web page with a link to FAQs has also been created, and can be found at www.albright.edu/right-size-tuition.
I would like to thank all those who have been involved in the work that has led us to this point in time, especially those on the Tuition and Pricing Strategy Implementation Design Team: Joe Eways, Chris Hanlon, Jack Lafayette, Janice Luck, Roberto Mandanici, Sierra Steffy and Lisa Wilder.
This bold step for Albright College aligns our commitment to educating students of academic promise to our pricing strategy, and it is simply the right thing to do. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to me or to your respective vice president.
All best wishes to you and your families for a restful, relaxing and joyful holiday break!