Stemming Tuition Sticker Shock

Regardless of the size, rank or location of a college or university, sticker shock is a very palpable and common concern for prospective students and their families. According to the College Board, the average cost of tuition and fees for the 2016–2017 school year was $33,480 at private colleges, $9,650 for state residents at public colleges, and $24,930 for out-of-state residents attending public universities.

Affordability is among “the most influential factors when students develop their college consideration lists.

Stamats 2016 TeensTALK study, confirms affordability is among “the most influential factors when students develop their college consideration lists.”

So what are enrollment marketers to do when undiscounted tuition and fees are published out of context and outside competition is at an all-time high? Don’t hide the ball. Run with it.


Address finances early and often in recruitment campaigns. Direct students to easily digestible information about awards, work study and federal loans in an easy to find section on your website. Invite questions. Communicate directly with parents. Consider communications specifically about completing and submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)—a top enrollment predictor that takes approximately 20 minutes to complete—during recruitment and even throughout yield.

In 2016, reported high school graduates missed out on as much as $2.7 billion in free federal grant money, mainly because of incomplete or unfiled FAFSAs. Confusion about the process or perception about not being eligible for federal aid are cited factors that led to the lack of applications.

Don’t hesitate to make use of a number of free resources made available in the DOE online Financial Aid Toolkit, including handouts, videos and infographics. There’s even more educational content available across DOE Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts that’s designed for social sharing.

Refer students and parents to your cost of attendance calculator so they gain a better understanding of their estimated net price—the important number. The reported "cost of attendance" is rarely what students actually pay.

Let them know—more than once—because confusion about costs shouldn’t stand in the way of recruiting the best class possible.