Report Says Free Tuition is Hurting Private Colleges

Graduates tossing mortar boards in air

It may not be a good time for private colleges in New York state.  

A new report from the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities says many have seen a "steep" enrollment drop over the past year, and to some degree, they're blaming the state's Excelsior Scholarship program, which provides free tuition program at SUNY and CUNY campuses

"There has been year after year of both declining head counts and declining revenue," said Ned Jones, Siena College's Vice-President for Enrollment Marketing.  "Everything is stacked against the private higher-eds right now."

30 colleges in which New York residents make up at 65% of the undergraduate enrollment saw a 5% drop from the fall of 2016 to the fall of 2017.  The CICU report also says those schools saw a 7% year-over-year decrease in the number of first-time freshmen, and 60% fewer transfers this fall.

While Siena's enrollment and employment have been "stable," Jones predicts that other institutions in New York, especially smaller colleges along the I-90 corridor, could be in deep trouble.

"There are colleges that will not be around in 10 years," Jones said, "and there will be a variety of factors."

However, he also predicts that many will re-invent themselves and thrive.

Gov. Cuomo's office is saying that private colleges should be more focused on making higher education more affordable than criticizing the state's efforts.  "We can't say it's all Excelsior's fault," Jones said. "We have to look at our own institutions, too."

photo:  Getty Images

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