Colby-Sawyer unveils 2023 tuition reduction

NEW LONDON — Starting next fall, Colby-Sawyer College will lower its tuition to $17,500, it announced Wednesday.

The new price will be 62% lower than the current list price of $46,364. The actual difference for students and families will be less, as the new tuition brings the listed price more in line with what students are already paying, said Colby-Sawyer President Sue Stuebner, noting that 100% of current students from New London School receive financial aid.

The goal is to make pricing more transparent so families “don’t have to wonder, ‘Can I afford this institution or not,'” she said, noting that many families don’t won’t even consider a private college like Colby-Sawyer because of the sticker price.

“It’s just an untenable situation (to) continue with these high prices and discounts,” she said, noting that a faculty member likened colleges’ lack of price transparency to buying used cars.

“We want to get away from that,” she said.

Room and board at Colby-Sawyer currently costs about $16,000 a year, and the college tells students to expect about $2,000 more in fees and other costs such as travel, Stuebner said. In total, that will put a year at the four-year private college at nearly $36,000. For comparison, the total cost of attending the University of New Hampshire at Durham this year is $35,350, according to the UNH website.

“We will definitely be one of the most affordable private colleges in the area,” Stuebner said.

Colby-Sawyer’s announcement follows the Biden administration’s announcement last month that it would forgive $10,000 in federal student loan debt for people with incomes below $125,000 a year or households earning less than $250,000. It will also forgive an additional $10,000 for people who received federal Pell grants for college.

In June, Dartmouth College announcement that it would eliminate student loans for “upper middle class” families who do not qualify for the types of financial aid that low-income students qualify for but who are not wealthy enough to afford the full annual tuition of $83,802, room and board to attend Dartmouth. The college had already eliminated student loans for families earning less than $125,000.

“We’re just trying to really tune into the national high price conversation,” Stuebner said.

Colby-Sawyer’s decision to cut her tuition is possible because she’s in good financial shape, Stuebner said. Fundraising over the past two years has brought in the most funds in the college’s history, she said. Prior to the recent market downturn, the college’s endowment was at an all-time high.

“Much of this is due to donors giving to endowed scholarships,” Stuebner said. The endowment “helps defray the cost of financial aid to us.”

At the end of fiscal year 2021, the college’s endowment was $62.4 million, according to its audited financial statements. Operating expenses that year were $30.6 million.

Still, Stuebner said tuition will remain an important source of revenue for the school, which has about 1,000 students, including 750 undergraduates and 250 graduate students. The change in the listed tuition rate does not apply to graduate students, she said. Although she didn’t specify how many, Stuebner said she expects the school to see an increase in its student population due to the tuition reduction.

The college has added new programs in recent years, in part through its partnership with Dartmouth Health. Stuebner said the school recently launched a new online Masters in Business Administration that is aimed primarily at DH employees.

Colby-Sawyer has also so far raised $9.6 million in funds to support a new nursing and health sciences pavilion which Stuebner said she plans to open in fall 2024.

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at ndoyleburr@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.

Edward N. Arrington