NAICU Letter to the Wall Street Journal

April 04, 2009

Letters to the Editor
Wall Street Journal

To the Editor:

Students and families considering private colleges should not be scared off by Mr. Kahn's pessimistic and largely anecdotal assessment of private higher education's affordability and value ("The Fat Envelope, Please," opinion, April 3). For many students, the silver lining in the recession will be larger student aid budgets and smaller tuition increases in 2009-10.

Surveys of the 954 nonprofit, private institutions that make up the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities show that 92 percent are increasing their institutional aid budgets, by an average of 9.2 percent. Likewise, survey data show an average 4.2 percent increase in tuition and fees at independent institutions for 2009-10-the lowest annual increase in at least 37 years, and on par with the 2008 Consumer Price Index rate of 3.8 percent. Already, nine out of 10 students at private colleges pay less than list price, receiving an average institutional grant of $11,000.

The 24-percent drop in college endowments in the past six months, combined with drastically slowing fund raising, makes meeting enrollment goals-and generating the tuition revenue that follows-an absolute necessity to our institutions. The demands of the marketplace, combined with private higher education's commitment to access for students from all backgrounds, are driving private colleges to cut administrative and compensation costs, and use the savings to boost grants and scholarships for students, temper tuition increases, and protect academic quality.

A wave of innovative campus affordability measures-policies that replace loans with institutionally provided grants for low- and middle-income families, tuition freezes and cuts, matching the price of local public universities, and three-year bachelor's programs, among others-have been launched or expanded for 2009-10 by private institutions nationwide. (To see a list of examples, go to

The generous student aid policies at private colleges, as well as the personal attention they give students, accounts for their high four-year graduation rates. Seventy-nine percent of graduates at private colleges receive their bachelor's degrees within four, compared to 49 percent at state universities. These students avoid paying tuition for the additional two years that are necessary at a public university, and start earning a full-time salary sooner.

The global economic upheaval underscores the importance of a higher education that prepares workers for an entire career-not just their next job. A liberal arts education that provides a rich base of knowledge, and the analytical, critical thinking, and leadership skills lays the foundation for a thriving career. Thanks to generous grant and scholarship programs, and high four-year graduation rates, such an education at a private college or university is still affordable and remains a great value.


David L. Warren
National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities
Washington, D.C.



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