“Lifting Barriers” initiative plans to reduce “sticker shock”

By Stephen Neukam

While college education becomes more expensive and unaffordable for students and enrollment fears echo throughout universities, Rider has rolled out a significant overhaul of its pricing model to encourage more families to pick the school.

This major change, which is generally known as a price reset, will slash tuition rates by over $10,000. The decrease will drop the university’s tuition sticker price, or its price before discounts and aid, to $35,000 a year. 

The sticker price for Rider’s tuition will drop by 22% as part of the new plan.

This five-figure decrease in tuition price will not mean lower net costs for students. The university makes clear in its announcement of the initiative, called “Lifting barriers,” that financial aid commitments will be adjusted to ensure that “out of pocket costs to students will remain similar.”

The drop in tuition rates won’t have an effect on net price for students, which remains on the same trajectory.

The overhaul has been planned for nearly two years, with Drew Aromando, vice president of enrollment management, spearheading the initiative. Aromando said that the objective of the new model is to make Rider more accessible to families and students while also increasing the value of the school’s education.

While the reduction in tuition prices will not make the university more affordable for families, a reduced sticker price might retain students who are scared away by a high tuition rate, said Aromando. The plan also intends to personalize the pricing process for students, giving them more transparency and clarity about the real costs for Rider.

There was a sensitivity surrounding the announcement of the initiative — in the past weeks, students have voiced their demands for lower tuition and fees for this semester, given the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Aromando said that the issue was considered but concluded that since the goal of the changes is to give students clarity about the costs of Rider, there was no better time to roll it out.

Student Government Association President Dylan Erdelyi, a senior musical theater major, praised the announcement, saying that it was a long-needed change to university pricing but raised concerns that no further action has been taken to alleviate the financial burden on students right now.

“I think ‘Lifting barriers’ is a great initiative — our sticker price has always been too high and I know that has been a big deterrent to families looking at Rider,” said Erdelyi. “Providing additional resources to career success is also incredibly important right now, as many students are entering a job market that is severely impacted by the effects of COVID-19. That being said, I wish there was a piece of this initiative that helped to lighten the financial burden many current students are feeling right now.”

Senior Class President Rhea Fryer, a senior political science major, praised the initiative, saying, “I think that the ‘Lifting Barriers’ initiative has students’ best interests at heart, and some things have to be done in practice to see how effective they are.”

Along with the drop in tuition, the plan includes investments into career preparation and academic success, a move meant to raise the profile of the university, said Aromando. The investments mean more staff, enhanced technologies and other resources for Career Development and Success.

Price resets are becoming more common, usually for smaller, private universities. A recent analysis of a number of schools that have adopted similar policies has shown that the move can boost enrollment, according to a report by Lucie Lapovsky, who runs her own consulting firm and is a former president of Mercy College.

Lapovsky told The Rider News that the aim of a price reset is to attract students that may be deterred by the high price of tuition — because of the change in sticker price, the school’s applicant pool should increase. 

The key, Lapovsky said, to boosting enrollment is to have a competitive net price and good product.

“The number of students who choose to enroll after being accepted is influenced significantly by the net price,” said Lapovsky. “Thus the amount of financial aid that is offered is also important to increase enrollment.”

In her report, Lapovsky underlined the importance of pairing a tuition reset with programmatic improvements, which Rider is attempting with its planned investments into career support.

The decision by the university to reset its tuition rate may also be a timely tactic to combat the financial uncertainty because of the coronavirus pandemic, with Lapovsky pointing out that families may be less likely to consider high-priced schools because of the number of people “hurting” in the economy.

According to university projections, the school’s anticipated sticker price by 2030 would be over $82,000 — the price reset will bring that number down to just under $70,000. In terms of net cost, the university is forecasting a very gradual increase in price that is projected to be in line with inflation.

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