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Dec 1, 2012 12:00 PM by Donna Krache, CNN

College cuts its tuition by 33%

If you're a parent with college-age kids, you probably experienced sticker shock the first time you checked out tuition costs. And maybe even a few times after that.

The College Board says that the average yearly cost for a four-year public university for an in-state student is now $8,240. For a private college, it's $28,500 per year.

William Thierfelder, president of Belmont Abbey College, says that most students are so discouraged with what he calls the "sticker price" of higher education that they don't even consider applying to a school they think is beyond their families' means.

So Belmont Abbey is taking a different approach: The college has announced that it is "resetting" its tuition, reducing it by 33% next fall for incoming freshmen and transfer students.

The old sticker price for one year at this small private college near Charlotte, North Carolina was about $27,600. The new price will be $18,500.

Thierfelder told CNN that the college had been working on a tuition reset for about two years, and that he was able to reduce tuition with their adult education program 8 years earlier.

Why is Belmont Abbey cutting tuition? "It seemed a little bit like madness, with costs going up each year, We were raising tuition each year, only to give it back on the financial aid side to help students be able to afford it," Thierfelder told CNN. "It's time to stop the madness."

Thierfelder says that a dozen or more colleges have reduced their tuition, and he thinks more will follow this trend.

"When I tell people we're doing this, they don't say 'that's crazy', they say 'that's great, why isn't everybody doing this?'" said Thierfelder.

What about the potential negative impact of reduced tuition on instruction and class sizes? Thierfelder says there won't be any, or he would not have taken this action. He says the college has an outstanding faculty and quality students, and will continue its athletic and theater programs as well as its honors institute.

And according to Thierfelder, there are no plans to increase enrollment. The current undergraduate enrollment at Belmont Abbey is about 900, with an additional 800 in the adult education program.

When asked if the lower tuition would be offset by lower financial aid, Thierfelder told CNN, "Certainly we will recalculate financial aid proportionally, but by lowering [tuition], it's a real benefit to the student. The actual price is lower. Even if they paid full boat, no one would pay more than $18,500. Before, our tuition was $27,600."

Thierfelder pointed out that next year the college was actually considering another tuition increase. He said he asked himself, "How can anyone afford this, and when does it stop?"

"My hope is that this will give hope to students and their parents," said Thierfelder.


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