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Posted at 9:55 AM ET, 02/17/2011

Sewanee cuts tuition and fees by 10%

By Jenna Johnson
Jenna Johnson

It's tuition-setting season at most colleges, a delicate assignment given the economic hardships still facing many families and higher education's need for cash. In many cases, trustees and school leaders opted for single-digit increases or freezing tuition rates for returning students.

Trustees at the University of the South, better known as Sewanee, decided to take a different approach -- and reduced the cost to attend next school year by 10 percent.

The price reduction applies to tuition, fees, room and board, decreasing the overall cost to attend Sewanee from around $46,000 to about $41,500. In doing so, the university will also change how it administers financial aid to better target it to students in need. But officials say no students will pay more next year than they pay now, and most will pay less.

"Higher education is, as you undoubtedly know, on the verge of pricing itself beyond the reach of more and more families," Sewanee President John M. McCardell Jr. said in a video announcement posted Wednesday. (For those unfamiliar with the liberal arts school: Sewanee is located in Tennessee, about an hour west of Chattanooga, and has about 1,400 undergraduates. Princeton Review named it one of the most beautiful campuses.)

John McCardell discusses tuition cut from University of the South on Vimeo.

Although many colleges have increased their financial aid offerings over the years, few, if any, have reduced their overall rates by double digits. McCardell said he hopes the cut will make a liberal arts education more affordable and accessible, and end the "bidding wars" admissions offices often wage for top students.

"We're reducing the price for everyone," said McCardell, who used to be the president of Middlebury College. "And we hope, as a result, even more top students will appreciate the simplicity and honesty of our process."

The decision prompted a number of questions, some of which McCardell answered online: Is this a sign of desperation? ("No.") Will this result in faculty or staff layoffs, pay freezes or program cuts? ("No. No. And No. Period.") And does this mean Sewanee has been overcharging? ("No.")

Meanwhile, here's what other universities are doing with their tuition rates:

Princeton University trustees approved a one percent increase in undergraduate tuition and fees in late January, the lowest increase since 1966, when there was no increase. Next academic year, undergrads will pay about $37,000 for tuition. Some housing rates will go up as much as two percent, so the overall price will be around $49,000. (Daily Princetonian article)

George Washington University trustees decided last week to charge incoming undergrads 2.9 percent more for tuition, and continue the tradition of locking in the tuition rate for returning students. Undergrads entering the university this fall will pay $44,148 per year for up to five years. The trustees also voted to limit the growth of the overall cost of attendance (such as housing and meal plans) to 2.7 percent. (GW Hatchet article)

Stanford University trustees decided to increase tuition, room and board by 3.5 percent. This academic year, students paid about $50,576 overall. Meanwhile, Stanford Law School students will see a 5.75-percent hike in fees. (Stanford Daily article)

The Brown University corporation approved a 3.5 percent increase in undergrad tuition this month, bringing next year's tuition and fees bill to $53,136. The increase is slightly lower than those in past years. (Brown Daily Herald article)

What's happening at other universities? Tell me about it in the comments or shoot me an e-mail.

Do you have questions about dorm life, admissions, studying for finals or anything else college related? Join my weekly online chat, Campus Overload Live, Thursdays at 1 p.m.

Campus Overload is a daily must-read for all college students. Make sure to bookmark http://washingtonpost.com/campus-overload. You can also follow me on Twitter and fan Campus Overload on Facebook.

By Jenna Johnson  | February 17, 2011; 9:55 AM ET
Categories:  News Overload  | Tags:  Brown, George Washington, Princeton, Sewanee, Stanford  
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