Kaplan Survey: Colleges Say Tuition Cuts Not in the Works, Though Many Think Quality of Online Learning Lags In-Person Experience

Note to editors: Kaplan is a subsidiary of Graham Holdings Company (NYSE: GHC)
Press Contact: Russell Schaffer, russell.schaffer@kaplan.com, 917.822.8190

Twitter: @KapEdNews, @KaplanSATACT

New York, NY (April 12, 2021) ⁠— College students and parents hoping to pay lower tuition than they normally would because classroom instruction has largely gone online due to the COVID-19 pandemic are going to be disappointed, according to Kaplan’s latest college admissions officers survey*. Of the admissions officers polled, 73 percent said their school has no plans to cut tuition, even as only 36 percent of them believe that the quality of learning students are getting online is the same as the in-person experience. These results are released as more colleges announce their tentative fall 2021 plans, with many pledging to “get back to normal” quickly, while others say that a return to in-person instruction will depend on several factors, most notably the level of infections in their local area. This also comes as applicants begin to receive acceptance letters from colleges and ponder where to attend, with cost a critically important deciding factor.

Admissions officers who said no tuition cuts are on the way shared the following reasons, which may surprise students and parents:

  • “With colleges moving from a brick and mortar institution to all virtual, I believe people are forgetting the costs universities are experiencing to invest in needed virtual technology. If anything, universities are having to spend more than normally budgeted to meet student and faculty needs…I wish they understood that universities are being strapped with the added pressure that if not doing well fiscally, they will have to cut staff or programs.”
  • “Our students experience face-to-face experiences with our professors via Zoom classes. This is different from asynchronous courses where students can log in at their own time and interact with professors only via email, phone calls and pre-recorded lectures. The synchronous courses provide students with similar face-to-face instruction.”
  • “While I understand the frustration from students and parents surrounding tuition rates not being lowered due to online classes, I also am aware of the reality that many colleges that lack the large endowments and reserve funds would not be able to survive a drastic cut to tuition. Drastic cuts to tuition would mean cuts to student services and lower quality learning and social experience at most colleges.”
  • “I personally feel that we should lower tuition, since the ‘product’ that our students are paying for this year is not the same as what it is in a normal year, so it seems unfair that the prices remain the same…my immediate, common sense thinking is ‘Why should our students pay the same amount for less?’”

Kaplan’s takeaway: Families hoping for lower college tuition were likely depending on two interwoven, but different impetuses. One, many guessed that online delivery was a lot less expensive than in-person instruction, but at least according to admissions officers, the rapid and substantial investment in online education likely drained their financial resources, making it harder for them to lower tuition across the board. Second, some families were hoping that colleges would recognize that the struggling economy, caused by the pandemic, was taking a deep financial toll on them, which would lead them to lower sticker prices for everyone. But that’s not the case either. Colleges are still looking at students’ financial situations one family at a time.

To help make test prep available to as many students as possible, Kaplan, through a partnership with ACT, continues to provide free comprehensive ACT® prep to those who qualify for a test fee waiver. 

To schedule an interview about the survey results, contact Russell Schaffer at 917.822.8190 or russell.schaffer@kaplan.com

*366 admissions officers from the nation’s top national, regional and liberal arts colleges and universities – as compiled from U.S. News & World Report – were polled by e-mail between September 16 and September 29, 2020. Percentages are rolled up to the nearest whole number.

ACT® is a registered trademark of ACT, Inc. Kaplan is the official partner for live online prep for the ACT.

About Kaplan

Kaplan is a global educational services company that provides individuals, universities, and businesses with a diverse array of services, including higher and professional education, test preparation, language training, corporate and leadership training, and student recruitment, online enablement and other university support services. With operations in nearly 30 countries, Kaplan serves nearly 1.1 million students each year and has partnerships with 2,000-plus universities, colleges, and schools/school districts, and more than 4,000 businesses globally. Kaplan is a subsidiary of Graham Holdings Company (NYSE: GHC). For more information, please visit www.kaptest.com.   

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