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University of Detroit Mercy cuts undergrad tuition 30%

Candice Williams
The Detroit News

Reacting to concern about rising college costs and hoping to attract more students, the University of Detroit Mercy announced Tuesday that it would roll its undergraduate tuition back to 2008 levels, slashing it more than 30 percent.

Officials said the initiative is aimed at making the school competitively priced with other universities, officials said.

“Once they look at the price, it’s usually one of those that pushes them away and deters them from actually applying,” Antoine M. Garibaldi, president of Detroit Mercy, said during a press conference Tuesday. “So we expect to have a larger freshman class next year. We’ve been riding a nice crest over the last three years of having three consecutive years of increases for our freshman classes.”

Under Detroit Mercy’s Assure Your Boundless Future Tuition Reset, undergraduate tuition will drop from $41,158 to $28,000 per year, beginning in fall 2018. The reduced tuition does not take into account scholarships and financial aid a student might receive.

The private Catholic institution studied its tuition and the cost of university competitors for two years, officials said. It also conducted surveys with prospective students and parents. The university is doing the same analysis for its graduate program, Garibaldi said.

U.S. News and World Report ranks Detroit Mercy 19th among 173 Midwest universities.

Robert Franek, editor in chief of the Princeton Review, a college admission services company, applauded Detroit Mercy’s tuition cut.

“It answers that need for college-bound students and their parents, just the biggest stress around college,” he said. “... The debt the student is likely to incur and just the general cost of college being so daunting.”

A handful of universities have reset their tuition in recent years, Franek said. Among them is Drew University, a private university in New Jersey that announced in September it would cut its tuition for the 2018-19 school year from $48,336 to $38,668 — 20 percent.

In the fall of 2014, Converse College, a private university in South Carolina, scaled its tuition back 43 percent from the previous school year.

Franek said he thinks tuition resets will become more common.

“Tuition has increased two to three times past the rate of inflation every year consecutively for the last 20, far outpacing what the average student and their family would expect to earn in their increases in their salaries each year,” he said. “I do think college costs have skyrocketed and I think many schools are going to take a long look at what their charges are and what they’re discounting from those sticker costs.”

Higher-education institutions are trying other programs to attract students concerned about escalating costs. In June, the University of Michigan announced the Go Blue Guarantee, which will make tuition free for resident undergraduates whose families earn $65,000 or less.

Garibaldi said he expects freshman enrollment at University of Detroit Mercy to increase to about 550 this year, up from 468 last year. Moving forward, that number may reach about 600, he said.

Overall enrollment is about 5,100, including students in the dental and law schools. About 3,000 are enrolled in undergraduate programs.

Because of the school’s already low student-to-teacher ratio, Garibaldi said he does not anticipate hiring additional faculty.

“Our value is going to stay the same — our academic programs,” he said. “In fact, we think that we will get many more students applying to some of our programs than in the past.”

Since 2011, the university’s endowment has doubled, officials said. In October, the university announced a $100 million capital campaign that has raised more than $78 million so far.

The tuition cut was good news for freshman mechanical engineering students Joe Bergeron, 18, and Brendan Magolan, 19.

“I thought it was a very smart move in the long run,” Bergeron said Tuesday. “I know a lot of students who are on work-study and trying to pay for their education on their own. It does lessen the amount that they’re going to have to make up annually.”

Bergeron, a commuter from Rochester Hills, said his parents help him pay tuition and he contributes what he can. He also has student loans.

Magolan said his parents are going to be pleased to hear tuition will be lower next year. The Brighton resident, who lives on campus, has student loans and receives tuition help from his parents.

The tuition reset will be a draw for prospective students, Magolan said.

“I definitely think this is a positive impact that will happen with the school,” he said. “A lot more people want to go here, but the price turns people away. Now that it’s lower and people hear great things about it, Detroit Mercy is becoming a more prominent school in Michigan. It gets our name out there with (the University of) Michigan and Michigan State.”

Twitter: @CWilliams_DN