One Private College Decides No Tuition Hike, As Prices Approach $60K

By Susan Jones | November 13, 2012 | 5:45 AM EST

Mary Lyon founded Mount Holyoke College in 1837. (Photo from MHC Website)

( – The nation’s most expensive private college now costs more than $60,000 a year, and others in the top-100 aren’t far behind, according to Campus Grotto, a website that ranks schools by cost.

The ranking for the current 2012-2013 academic year shows that 74 colleges now charge more than 55,000 a year, compared with 19 last year.

It therefore comes as "good news" that one of those private colleges has voted to freeze tuition, room and board for the second year in a row.

The basic cost of attending Mount Holyoke, an all-women college in South Hadley, Mass., will remain $53,596 ($41,270 tuition, $12,140 room and board, and a $186 student fee) for the 2013-2014 academic year. That puts it at number 94 in Campus Grotto’s ranking of the 100 most expensive private colleges.

Mount Holyoke said its "historic second year of flat tuition" is part of effort to attract and support academically talented students from all socioeconomic backgrounds in the United States and around the world.

(Indeed, as the Associated Press reported on Monday, international enrollment at U.S. colleges and universities -- particularly at big, public land-grant colleges in the Midwest -- grew nearly 6 percent last year, driven by a 23-percent increase in China. International students typically pay full out-of-state tuition and aren't awarded financial aid.)

Mount Holyoke’s price freeze was enough to drop the school 33 spots to number 94 on the most expensive list. “It will be interesting to see if we see more of these tuition freezes in the coming years,” Campus Grotto said.

‘Not sustainable’

“In the past, Mount Holyoke, along with other colleges, increased tuition, room, and board annually at rates that consistently outpaced inflation and growth in household income,” an October trustee’s report said.

“The College accompanied those past price increases with significant increases in financial aid, trying as far as possible, and with a growing percentage of our annual budget, to support the exceptional student body we have and continue to seek.”

However, the trustees said, “That model is not sustainable for higher education, and it is not sustainable for students and families in the current economic environment.”

The average financial aid package at MHC is $36,067, according to the College Board. MHC says in 2012-13, 74 percent of its full-time beginning undergraduates received grant/scholarship aid.

MHC said its decision not to increase tuition has improved the college’s affordability without sacrificing an “exceptional education.” The college said its renewed focus on cost containment has allowed the trustees “to deliver a second year of good tuition news to our current and prospective students and their families.”

According to a report from the College Board, the federal Government accounts for almost 72 percent of all postsecondary education financial aid, while state, institutional, and private sources provide about 28 percent.

In its fiscal 2013 budget request, the Education Department said the federal government, in fiscal 2012, would provide an "historic $217 billion" in grants, loans and work-study assistance to help students pay for post-secondary education. It is requesting $193.5 billion in federal student aid for fiscal 2013, including $36.6 billion in Pell Grants (which are specifically targeted to low-income students) and over $154 billion in student loans.

The Education Department says this level of financial aid will help more than 15 million students pay for college.

However, the budget request also warns that "fiscal constraints now limit the extent to which additional Federal resources are available to help students and families cope with unrelenting increases in the costs of higher education."

As part of its "strategic approach" to avoid leaving students and families with “crippling debt in financing their education,” President Obama has proposed shifting aid away from colleges that fail to keep net tuition down, and toward those colleges and universities that do their “fair share to keep tuition affordable, provide good value, and serve needy students well.”