The recent economic crisis has hit higher educational institutions hard. Here in Arizona, public university administrators are trying to navigate the backlash generated by tuition hikes and they aren’t alone. Colleges across the country have to raise tuition and fees while cutting classes and personnel in order to stay afloat. However, the economy isn’t leading to an increase in tuition rates at all colleges. The University of the South, also known as Sewanee, is reducing its tuitions and fees by 10 percent.

Sewanee is a small private liberal arts college in Tennessee. Tuition and fees at the pricey private school cost $46,112 for full-time undergraduate students during the 2010-2011 school year. When a student can get a four-year degree from a public university for about the price of a single year’s tuition at Sewanee, making the decision to pay for a private liberal arts education is not realistic for many families.

So while the financial crisis of recent years has caused other schools to raise tuition, Sewanee took a completely different approach to the problem. Cut tuition and fees to entice more students to make the choice to attend their university instead of a less-expensive alternative.

According to an article in The New York Times, less than 24 percent of the students admitted into the Sewanee actually choose to attend the university. Sewanee needs to make the school more enticing for prospective students and one way to do so is to cut its fees.

John M. McCardell Jr, vice-chancellor of Sewanee, discusses the decision to reduce tuition, “the university has made a bold and perhaps risky move. But given the realities of higher education in the current economy, we believe that some college or university needed to step up and say, ‘Enough.’” Source: The New York Times

The New York Times article goes on to detail the financial cost of the tuition cut — between $6 and $8 million less in tuition and fees coming in over the next three years. However, the school’s $315 million endowment can more than cover the reduced income in the short term. If Sewanee’s unique approach to attracting more students pays off, the school could be in a better financial position in the long run.

Although Sewanee is cutting tuition and fees by 10 percent, a $40,000 tuition bill for a single year of a liberal arts education in today’s economy is still a tough sell. Sure, there are many American families that consider $40,000 for a year of college a drop in the bucket, but the reality for most Americans is that it just isn’t feasible.

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