A surprise announcement from Concordia College President William Craft left students with questions about what the news meant for them.
On September 24, Craft unveiled a new approach to tuition and financial aid for the 2021-2022 academic year. The dramatic change sees the new cost of tuition set at $27,500, a substantial decrease from the current year’s $42,750.
Craft, who is in his tenth year as Concordia’s president, further elaborated on his message.
“First and foremost, the change in the college’s tuition and financial aid model brings greater clarity and transparency regarding direct educational costs at Concordia,” said Craft. “This benefits both continuing and new students.”
For over two decades, Concordia has had both high tuition prices and high financial aid. This new approach allows Concordia to lower the two amounts so students can see more clearly the actual price of admittance, as well as aid students and their families plan ahead financially.
President Craft reassured that all students would have their financial aid adjusted accordingly, and they may even be paying less than they were expecting to.
“Total financial packages (both scholarships and grants) for current students will be proportionately adjusted to reflect the new tuition level for the 21-22 academic year so that the total net costs students are currently paying will be sustained,” said Craft. “It is possible that individual scholarships may be adjusted in varying proportions to preserve the total net college costs students are currently paying. Once a student’s total tuition and aid packages have been revised to maintain current net costs for each student, a limited inflationary increase of $800 will be instituted for the 21-22 academic year.”
This $800 cap on tuition increase for next year cuts the expected $1,700 increase by nearly half.
David Creech, an associate professor of religion at Concordia, is excited that the college has changed its approach to tuition for next year.
“The way that the higher education works is that there’s a little bit of a game that’s played where the more expensive the college, the more prestigious it’s assumed to be,” said Creech. “We are about education. We have doors open to all sorts of different people, and in inviting them in we’re not going to play the prestige game.”
With Concordia being straightforward about their cost of tuition, more students may envision themselves attending and not turn away at first glance of the price tag.
“The price change is first and foremost a move for clarity, so that a wide range of prospective students and families will see that a Concordia education is possible for them—a smart choice regardless of their family’s income level,” said Craft. “More students choosing Concordia means more resources for academic programs, for student development and support and for continued innovation across the college.”
Even though Concordia is dropping their price of tuition, President Craft is sure of the college’s financial standings.
“This change in our tuition and financial aid model supports both improved enrollment of new students and retention of current Concordia students,” said Craft. “Stabilizing and improving enrollment and retention rates benefits students individually and the college as a whole.”
Kayla Zopfi, a senior at Concordia, was skeptical when she first heard the news. She became aware of Concordia’s inflated price tag a few years prior when a friend sat in on a budgeting and tuition meeting. Since then, she has stressed the need for students to know the more accurate cost of admission.
“Honest is something Concordia should have been from the beginning, even though the high tuition/high aid model is something other institutions have been doing,” said Zopfi.
After seeing a local billboard advertising the college’s lowering of tuition, she felt unconvinced that the message is being publicized properly.
“I don’t think it’s a bad move, but I think it’s being advertised to the general public as something that it’s not,” said Zopfi. “I don’t think it tells the whole story.”
Zopfi said one thing she believes the decision is good for is that the impact of financial aid is felt more by the student. When tuition is monumental, a few thousand dollars in aid seems like a drop in the bucket.
“It makes the effects of FAFSA and state grants weigh more,” she said. She gave the example of when tuition is $12,000 at a state school and a student receives $5,000 in federal aid, it is clear that almost half of the cost is covered.
Concordia College is not the first private college to try this new approach to tuition and financial aid. In the fall of 2013, Concordia University (CSP) in St. Paul university announced a similar tuition reset that dropped their tuition cost by $10,000. According to a recent affordability fact sheet found on their website, undergraduate enrollment totals have been on the rise since 2013, accompanied by a 15% increase in six-year graduation rates. CSP prides itself on a model that provides an affordable but quality education for students, which is exactly the goal of Concordia College with the recent tuition change announcement.
If the outcomes of Concordia’s promise for an honest sticker price are anything like the outcomes of CSP’s tuition reset, the college should see increases in enrollment and retention rates in the coming years. If nothing else, a drop in up-front tuition costs will make Concordia appear to be a more affordable choice for a greater range of prospective students.
Dominic Erickson and Ingrid Harbo contributed to this report.
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated President William Craft will begin his tenth year as president in 2021. He is currently in his tenth year, having started summer 2011.