Converse Answers the Call for Affordability
Converse College announced it will reset its tuition price to $16,500, a 43 percent decrease from the current tuition price, for full-time students in its traditional undergraduate program starting with the 2014-15 academic year. The move aligns the institution’s “sticker price” more closely with the average net cost to attend.
Converse is the first institution in South Carolina to make such a move and among only 10 institutions in the nation to do so since 2012. With the tuition reset, Converse takes a national lead in helping to solve America’s college affordability issues, as higher education costs have escalated sharply even while median household income ($50,000*) has remained mostly flat for the past 10 years. Converse’s tuition decrease sets the price back to what it was over a decade ago.
The reset is the result of extensive research and planning over the last 18 months. The College reworked its operating budget to enable reduced tuition while sustaining the distinctive aspects of a Converse education, including an 11:1 student-faculty ratio and academic, research and co-curricular programs that produce strong outcomes for graduates. “It’s the right thing to do,” said Betsy Fleming, president of Converse. “We heard families’ concerns about the rising price of college and we committed ourselves to finding a sustainable solution. We now want to start a new conversation in higher education—one that focuses on real value in terms of both quality and cost.”
“We heard families’ concerns about the rising price of college and we committed ourselves to finding a sustainable solution.”
The $16,500 tuition reset, coupled with a room and board price of $9,500 for a total cost of $26,000, gives Converse one of the lowest prices of any four-year private college or university in the region and is comparable with total costs at premier public universities both in and out of state. Converse will continue to award institutional scholarships and need-based financial aid, lowering the cost for some students even further from the published price.
The affordability initiative comes as Converse celebrates the 125th anniversary of its founding this academic year. “We are taking a pioneering step, much like our founders did in 1889, to ensure that a high-quality, personalized education continues to be possible for aspiring young women who want to make a difference in the world,” said President Fleming. “Just as we help activate the voice and vision of our students to advance their dreams, careers, and communities, we are raising our institutional voice to communicate our vision for providing great value and return on investment for our students.”
Nothing will be eliminated or trimmed from the Converse educational experience in or out of the classroom to accommodate the tuition reset. New initiatives launched this year include academic programs in genetic counseling, sports management and collaborative piano, an online graduate degree in gifted education; an NCAA Division II Track and Field team; and construction of a field house to support athletics growth.
“Record enrollments, new buildings and capital improvements, innovative curricular and co-curricular developments, expanding online offerings, and a growing athletic program are all a part of the Converse momentum today,” said Benjamin Wall, chair of Converse’s Board of Trustees and co-founder of WJ Partners private investment firm. “As a result, and after extensive research and careful planning to ensure it is a sustainable operating model, we are able to reset Converse’s tuition from a position of financial strength.”
“The net out-of-pocket cost to our students has long been comparable to the price of public colleges. The tuition reset will convey Converse’s affordability upfront.”
All new and returning students enrolling in Converse’s full-time traditional undergraduate program next fall will qualify for the tuition reset, and families from all income levels will benefit financially. “We hope to eliminate the ‘sticker shock’ that prevents many prospective students and their families from exploring the benefits of a quality private college like Converse.
Though surprising to many, the net out-of-pocket cost to our students has long been comparable to the price of public colleges. The tuition reset will convey Converse’s affordability upfront,” said Sally Hammond, Converse’s vice president for enrollment and marketing. President Fleming adds, “Middle-class students and families–those who do not qualify for significant need-based aid—are shying away from the cost of a four-year college education. These students and families will benefit greatly from our new business model, which provides both immediate and long-term savings, including reduced loan debt.”
Returning undergraduate Converse students will receive a recalculated financial aid package that includes a minimum savings of $1,000 in out-of-pocket tuition cost when compared to the old pricing system that would have included a 3.5% tuition increase. Many will save significantly more. “We are proud to be delivering a proactive response to the nation’s call for college education that makes good economic sense and delivers high-quality results,” said President Fleming. “Yes, this is a bold step. But it’s also in keeping with our campus culture of creative thinking and action, at a college characterized by bolder voice, greater value and clearer vision.”
*2012-2013 Bureau of Labor Statistics