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While Aid Helps, Some Struggle With Private School Tuition

The nation’s economic recession is beginning to take a toll on some students at private colleges and universities, a new survey says.

While overall enrollment at private institutions is holding steady, nearly 40 percent of these colleges say the recession is prompting some students to drop out of school, says the new survey from the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU). In another sign of the recession’s toll, one-fourth of the institutions said some students had moved from full-time to part-time status.

Also, more than half of private institutions reported greater student borrowing through credit cards and private loans, while a similar number said some students are working more hours to earn money.

“The nation’s students and families are facing unprecedented financial challenges, and many are struggling to afford college without taking on excessive debt,” said Dr. David L. Warren, NAICU president, at release of the NAICU Fall 2009 Economic Impact Survey.

“Private college presidents are aware of the difficulties facing consumers and are doing what they can within their institutional means to enhance affordability,” Warren added.

Toward that end, the association says its members are providing more generous institutional aid and lowering the rate of tuition increases.

More than half of survey respondents said that their tuition increases for 2009-2010 were less than their historical average and that 5 percent froze tuition at the previous year’s rate. Most institutions said they increased the number of institutional aid awards over the previous year.

Overall, enrollment at these institutions will increase only slightly or remain unchanged for fall 2009, the survey indicated. Officials credited this trend in part to more generous federal financial aid, as most colleges reported an increase in grant and aid packages.

“Recent increases in federal student aid have made a huge difference for our students,” Warren said.  “There still are difficult days ahead for many students and their institutions of higher education, but the federal government’s actions this past year have given consumers a reason for hope.”

Among the nearly 300 institutions responding to the survey, 83 percent said financial aid applications are on the rise among students.

Elsewhere, most private colleges and universities said they accepted a higher number of regular applicants compared with the previous year, the survey said. More than one-third said they accepted late applications or extended their recruiting cycle. In addition:

n       52 percent of institutions said they have students who are on a tuition payment plan;

n       54 percent of institutions have frozen salaries; and


n       47 percent have instituted a hiring freeze.

About half of the colleges said they made internal budget cuts and steered the savings toward institutional aid to students.

The majority of colleges in the survey have between 1,000 and 5,000 students. For more information, contact NAICU at

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