Still Seeking Students, Burlington College Cuts Tuition Rate | Off Message

Still Seeking Students, Burlington College Cuts Tuition Rate


Burlington College - FILE: NATALIE WILLIAMS
  • File: Natalie Williams
  • Burlington College
Burlington College announced Monday that it’s reducing tuition — bucking a national trend.

The “sticker price,” as the college called it in an announcement, which doesn’t include room or board, will be $21,500 for the 2016-17 academic year — down from roughly $23,500 today. 

Burlington College’s decision comes at a time when many colleges are raising tuition, and then offering more generous discounts to those students who can’t afford it. 

The tiny liberal arts college has kept tuition flat since the fall of 2014.

That's despite being in serious need of cash. Burlington College officials are hoping the tuition break will bring in new students — a critical need, given that its student body has shrunk in the midst of its financial struggles. But because the college will be taking in less revenue, the move also makes the need for new students all the more urgent.

The regional accreditation agency, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, which put the college on probation, visited the campus last month. In an interview that the college posted on YouTube, NEASC officials called the decline in enrollment — from 186 full-time undergraduate students in the fall of 2014 to 123 in the fall of 2015 — a “major risk.”

But they also praised the college for reducing its debt, stabilizing its administrative staff and streamlining its course offerings, among other changes.

Coralee Holm, the college spokesperson, described lowering tuition as a way to reduce the financial pressure on students. She noted that 80 percent of the student body receives financial aid. Holm also said that market research suggested a decrease would bring Burlington College more in line with comparable institutions. 

College officials are optimistic that the school can make up the difference, Holm said, noting an increase in applications for the 2016-17 year. In the meantime, they're hoping Monday's announcement will entice additional transfer students.

NEASC will make a final decision about whether to continue to accredit Burlington College after a hearing next spring.