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Liberal Arts Colleges Can Regain Enrollment With These Four Strategies (St. John's College & Goucher College)


July 1, 2019


Despite a spate of negative headlines, it's not all doom and gloom for liberal arts colleges. To be sure, financial pressures and sagging enrollments are major threats to the viability of small colleges, and an increasing number have not been able to survive. But several colleges are also proving that smart pricing and well-designed academic initiatives can stem enrollment slides and sometimes increase student headcount even in the current, challenging environment.

Tuition resets, curricular redesigns, new programs and student guarantees lead the list of innovations helping colleges attract more students and, in the process, regain a sturdier financial standing. Here are several examples.

Tuition Resets

Confronted with decreasing enrollments, dozens of small colleges have cut their tuition price. Done correctly, tuition resets can increase applicant pools and have the added advantage of more “honest” pricing than the high price/high discount strategy long pursued by most private colleges.

Facing closure, Sweet Briar College cut its tuition by more than a third in 2017 along with restructuring its organization and introducing a number of curricular changes. It subsequently reported a 42% increase in its 2018-19 entering class.

St John’s College in Annapolis slashed its tuition from $52,000 a year to $35,000. One year later, applicants increased 13%, and the number of admitted students who have committed to attend are up as well.