Franklin University just got less expensive.
Starting this fall, undergraduate classes at the Downtown college will cost $398 per credit hour, a 24% drop from the previous cost of $526, the university announced this week.
“The average undergraduate student here is not an 18-year-old high school graduate,” Franklin University President David Decker said. “They’re a 33-year-old, married and employed individual who has family obligations, work obligations, and is undertaking their studies to try to advance their careers.”
He said the reduced tuition rate will be 66% lower than the national average of $35,850 for private, nonprofit universities like Franklin as reported by the College Board.
Other central Ohio schools have also implemented new scholarships or tuition breaks in the past several years in efforts to stand out in the crowded landscape of higher education institutions and attract more students.
In September 2017, Ohio State announced it would commit about $11 million per year toward financial aid to all in-state students on its Columbus campus who qualify for the federal Pell Grant. The university in 2018 expanded that commitment, adding $3 million per year for the same types of students on its regional campuses.
Last September, Capital University promised a tuition break for undergraduate students whose families are in “mission-centered” careers in nonprofit and public service work.
Much like Ohio State, Otterbein University unveiled a new scholarship program in October 2018 that covers any remaining tuition costs for students from low- and moderate-income Ohio homes after other federal and state aid has been applied.
Otterbein has used that approach since 2013 with students from Columbus City Schools and has been expanding it ever since, said Jefferson Blackburn-Smith, Otterbein’s vice president for enrollment management. In its first year, Otterbein increased its enrollment from Columbus schools from six students to 28. Two years later, Otterbein expanded the program to include Whitehall, South-Western and Westerville school districts.
This year, Otterbein is expanding the program to include any student whose families have an annual income under $60,000 a year or are eligible to receive a Pell Grant.
“We understood that when serving low-income kids, the more affordable it was, the more likely they were to be able to succeed,” Blackburn-Smith said.
Franklin also announced it will be freezing its master’s and doctoral tuition this fall at $670 per credit hour and $748 per credit hour, respectively. In addition, it is also introducing a new military master’s degree rate of $536 per credit hour for current service members.
“Our graduate master’s and doctoral level positions are very reasonable and very much in line with the other institutions that offer comparable programs,” Decker said.
One of the main draws of cutting tuition at Franklin University, Decker said, is that it would allow students to expedite their graduation.
“This will allow students to … get through their programs faster by taking more classes or hours with the same amount of financial aid,” Decker said.
Otterbein’s Blackburn-Smith said Franklin’s lower tuition sends a signal that the school is doubling down on the things that are important to its nontraditional student body.
“I think for the working adult, convenience is as important as cost,” he said. “Online classes that people can fit in their schedule or classes that allow them to be available at certain times all factor into decisions about school.”
Decker said he wasn’t so much influenced by what the other central Ohio colleges have been doing to make school more affordable and was more focused on doing what made sense for the unique needs of Franklin’s students.
“Our primary focus is on our students and doing the right thing for them,” he said.