After Concordia University lowers tuition, enrollment soars

Published 8:15 am Monday, September 2, 2013

ST. PAUL  — After slashing its annual tuition by $10,000, Concordia University in St. Paul is now preparing for one of its largest entering classes in decades.

The college rolled back its undergraduate tuition this fall from $29,700 to $19,700.The result is a 65 percent jump in the number of new students, both freshmen and transfers.

“I was pretty excited,” said Margot Cowing, of Springdale, Ark., whose son is an incoming freshman. “Most places are raising tuition — nobody’s cutting.”

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School officials announced the tuition drop last year after realizing the sticker price might be scaring away potential students. The college was already subsidizing more than 40 percent of tuition costs with grants and scholarships, so executives decided to just lower tuition outright.

“People don’t even look at you if you’re over a certain price point,” said Eric LaMott, the school’s senior vice president.

The announcement drew plenty of attention. The number of campus visits soared 30 percent and applications were up. Now, dorms are full for the first time in years and the school had to convert unused space into extra classrooms.

Carrie Reber, of Fort Worth, Texas, said the lower tuition was absolutely a consideration for her 18-year-old son, Josh, another incoming freshman.

“Well, money is money — $10,000 is a big chunk that you don’t have to borrow,” she said.

It’s unclear whether Concordia’s move will spark a trend in Minnesota.

Paul Hassen, a spokesman for the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, said the tuition drop has been tried elsewhere. He acknowledges that it leads to a short-term increase in students but said the challenge is sustaining larger classes in light of the increased expenses to run the college.