Middlebury’s New Tuition Model

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The rising cost of college tuition is a matter of much discussion but little resolution. While some states have rules about how much tuition at public schools can rise relative to inflation, somehow colleges get around the rules. In fact, the closest any school has come so far is the questionable tuition freeze. Well Middlebury College might have a solution. According to an article by Scott Jaschik in Inside Higher Ed:

Starting this year, under a plan that Middlebury’s board is expected to approve, the college will plan its budgets each year by capping its “comprehensive fee” — the equivalent of tuition, room and board at other private colleges — at an upward limit of 1 percentage point above the Consumer Price Index.

It will be a long time before this new rule actually makes Middlebury College, well, affordable. The total annual cost of the school (tuition, room and board, activity fee) at the private college in Vermont is now a whopping $50,400. Last year Middlebury was the second most expensive school in the United States of America.

But according to Middlebury President Ronald Liebowitz, this tuition inflation has gone far enough and it’s time for a long-term solution. As Leibowitz explained:

We need to recognize that the demand for a four-year liberal arts degree, while still great, is not inelastic: There will be a price point at which even the most affluent of families will question their investment; the sooner we are able to reduce our fee increases the better.

Permanent limits on tuition pricing will eventually probably require cuts somewhere at the school. But with a policy like this at last the cost of college has a rational limit based on something. Let’s see if other colleges can take on similar limits.

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Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer