The latest tuition discount strategy: Price-matching

Several private institutions have introduced tuition price-matching programs to grow their applicant pool and compete with state flagship universities, Melissa Korn writes for the Wall Street Journal.

Beginning next fall, Oglethorpe University's Flagship 50 program will allow qualified students to pay the same tuition and fees that they would pay at their home state's flagship institution. To qualify for the program, students must have at least a 3.5 GPA and a minimum 1250 SAT or 26 ACT score.

The university hopes that the price-matching program will dispel misconceptions about the affordability of a private college education, writes Korn. "Many students and their families believe they must attend a large state school because they can't afford a private college education," Oglethorpe President Larry Schall told Atlanta Business Chronicle. "Because of perceived costs, many of those students never even apply to a small private college like Oglethorpe. We want to change those misconceptions."

Robert Morris University's (RMU) price-matching program targets a narrower set of applicants: Pennsylvanian students who were also accepted into either the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) or Pennsylvania State University (PSU). The program will match the average in-state tuition at Pitt and PSU and include a $3,000 scholarship.

"The Public Price Match Plus is one more way that RMU demonstrates that it is big enough to matter, yet small enough to care," Wendy Beckemeyer, vice president for enrollment management at RMU, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

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While tuition price-matching programs are rare, they're not unheard of, Josh Moody writes for Forbes. The University of Maine (UMaine), a public institution, introduced a recruitment plan to cut tuition for some out-of-state students in 2015. UMaine's Flagship Match policy charges qualified students the same tuition that they would pay at their home state's flagship institution.

This competitive recruitment plan, along with other new recruitment efforts, led to a 54% jump in freshman commitments, Rick Seltzer wrote for Inside Higher Ed in 2016. UMaine officials say the success of the Flagship Match policy was supported by accompanying out-of-state recruitment efforts, ranging from billboards to conversations with high school guidance counselors. 

In addition to boosting commitments, UMaine's out-of-state recruitment strategy also brought in more enrollments and more diversity. While the average SAT score did fall 10 points, UMaine admitted 17% more students than the year before. School officials created the first university-wide wait list, and they were able to shape a more diverse incoming class. Compared with the 2016 freshmen class, the 2017 one had 53% more black students and 49% more Hispanic students (Korn, Wall Street Journal, 9/3; Moody, Forbes, 8/29; Schackner, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 8/27; UMaine site, accessed 9/12).

Also see: How to NOT achieve the enrollment results you want

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