Good sticker shock at Converse

  • Posted: Thursday, September 12, 2013 12:01 a.m.

When college officials intone about the need to restrain the rising cost of higher ed, it’s mostly to say that the inevitable increases will only be slightly restrained.

It’s like listening to federal officials explain that cutting the rate of budget increases is somehow a victory for the taxpayer.

Certainly, limited tuition hikes are better than big ones. And among South Carolina colleges there has been a measure of restraint with the recent economic recession.

But Converse College in Spartanburg is doing something really commendable about rising college costs. The private women’s college will decrease tuition by an astonishing 43 percent, starting next school year.

The idea is to make Converse affordable for the long-term. It currently charges $26,000 a year in tuition.

Next year, that figure will represent the total cost of tuition and fees, room and board.

The cost reduction plan, prepared after 18 months of review by administrators and trustees, won’t affect the college’s academic or capital improvement programs, officials say. It won’t alter the student-teacher ratio of 11:1.

The college will reduce its institutional aid program as it cuts tuition, but will continue to provide assistance through scholarships.

The rising enrollment of recent years and the capable management of assets will support the cost-cutting plan, said Converse President Betsy Fleming.

“We heard families’ concerns about the rising price of college and we committed ourselves to finding a sustainable solution,” said Dr. Fleming, who previously served as executive director of Charleston’s Gibbes Art Museum.

The reduction will put tuition where it was a decade ago. Nationally, 10 colleges have taken similar action since 2012.

Converse was assisted by officials at Concordia University in St. Paul, Minn., as it prepared the tuition plan.

Belmont Abbey of Charlotte, Seton Hall of New Jersey and Ashland University of Ohio have made similar decisions to restrain costs.

In the wake of Converse’s decision, parents of prospective college students surely will be wondering if other higher ed institutions in South Carolina plan to follow suit.

As Dr. Fleming said:

“It’s the right thing to do.”

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