Colby-Sawyer College to slash tuition by 62% for 2023

By NORA DOYLE-BURR

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 09-07-2022 10:54 PM

NEW LONDON — Starting next fall, Colby-Sawyer College will reduce its tuition to $17,500, it announced Wednesday.

The new price will be 62% less than the current list price of $46,364. The actual difference for students and families will be less, as the new tuition brings the listed price more in line with what students are already paying, Colby-Sawyer President Sue Stuebner said, noting that 100% of current students at the New London college receive financial aid.

The goal is to make the pricing more transparent so families “don’t have to wonder, ‘Can I afford this institution or not?’ ” she said, noting that many families won’t even consider a private college like Colby-Sawyer because of the sticker price.

“It’s just an untenable situation (to) continue with these high prices and this discounting,” she said, noting that one faculty member compared the lack of transparency in college pricing to used car shopping.

“We want to get away from that,” she said.

Room and board at Colby-Sawyer is currently about $16,000 annually, and the college tells students to expect roughly $2,000 more in fees and other costs such as travel, Stuebner said. In total, that will put a year at the four-year private college at nearly $36,000. For comparison, the total cost of attendance at the University of New Hampshire in Durham this year is $35,350, according to UNH’s website.

“We will definitely be one of the most affordable private colleges in the region,” Stuebner said.

Colby-Sawyer’s announcement comes following the Biden administration’s announcement last month that it would forgive $10,000 in federal student loan debt for people with incomes below $125,000 a year, or households earning less than $250,000. It also will forgive an additional $10,000 for people who received federal Pell Grants for college.

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In June, Dartmouth College announced that it would eliminate student loans for “upper middle class” families who don’t qualify for the types of financial aid for which lower-income students are eligible but aren’t wealthy enough to afford to pay the full $83,802 annual tuition, room and board to attend Dartmouth. The college had already eliminated student loans for families earning less than $125,000.

“We’re just trying to really be attuned to the national conversation around high price,” Stuebner said.

Colby-Sawyer’s decision to reduce its listed tuition price is possible because it is in good shape financially, Stuebner said. Fundraising in the past two years has brought in the most money in the college’s history, she said. Before the recent downturn in the market, the college’s endowment was at the highest it had ever been.

“A lot of that is due to donors giving to endowed scholarships,” Stuebner said. The endowment “helps defray the cost of financial aid for us.”

At the end of fiscal year 2021, the college’s endowment sat at $62.4 million, according to its audited financial statement. Operating expenses that year were $30.6 million.

Still, Stuebner said tuition will remain an important source of revenue for the school, which has about 1,000 students, including 750 undergraduates and 250 graduate students. The change in the listed tuition rate does not apply to graduate students, she said. Though she didn’t say how much, Stuebner said she expects the school will see some increase in its student population due to the tuition reduction.

The college has been adding new programs in recent years, in part through its partnership with Dartmouth Health. Stuebner said the school recently launched a new online Master of Business Administration that is geared primarily toward DH employees.

Colby-Sawyer also has so far raised $9.6 million to support a new nursing and health sciences building that Stuebner said she expects to open in the fall of 2024.

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at ndoyleburr@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.

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