Fell Short of Enrollment Goals? You Need a Tuition Pricing Study Now

Patrick Stark

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Nothing compares to the stomach-churning feeling of getting fewer applicants than expected. Was it poor marketing strategy? Too little recruiting?

What’s more likely is that a combination of several factors including marketing, recruitment, brand health, and pricing strategies.

We know from working with hundreds of colleges across the country that pricing (cost of attendance) is one of the most important factors to students when choosing a college. And you know as a higher ed professional that tuition pricing is a multifactorial challenge – and sometimes painful to discuss with stakeholders.

The only way to know whether your pricing strategy was to blame for low matriculation is to conduct a tuition pricing elasticity study (TPES). This dual-purpose study digs deep to identify appropriate price thresholds for your students and region, as well as clarify your market positioning.

Think you might be ready for a TPES? Consider these three situations that can indicate now is the time to reduce the risk of low enrollment in the next academic year.

1. You’re Unsure How Students Feel About Your Brand

Competitive pricing encompasses more than having a lower price than competitors—you must also consider how prospective students and parents feel about your current price as it relates to their perceptions of your brand value vs. competitors’ brands.

A TPES can help you get to the root of both pricing and branding concerns. Higher ed researchers can conduct a blend of student and parent surveys to find out what people really think about your pricing, brand, and how their perceptions translate when comparing your institution to competitors. 

2. You Don’t Know How Students Feel About Your Published Price

We’ve heard it before. You worry prospective students will think you have a poor academic reputation if you come across as “cheap.” But if you’re priced too high compared to the market, will students get sticker shock?

Published price is one of the first things students look at when researching colleges. More importantly, they’re concerned with what they can afford and how they resonate with your brand.

3. You Wonder If You’re Discounting at the Correct Rate

Discounting is one of the most important factors students and parents consider. Students and parents today are more educated about tuition prices than ever before. They understand discounting, and it’s a top concern when considering college. But discounting is complex and often requires adjusting your published price and net cost to set an amount that appeals to students.

That’s where a tuition pricing study can play the largest role: It can determine the best discounting based on student and parent preference toward both published price and net cost. Identifying these price points drives enrollment and revenue growth.

Final Thoughts

One question we often get is whether doing a “tuition reset” is worthwhile.

Resets can increase enrollment and certainly appeal to students given the right circumstances. But they’re not effective for every school. In fact, tuition resets can be harmful. If implemented incorrectly, a reset can ruin a school’s reputation and decrease enrollment.

Every college should consider evaluating their tuition pricing strategy each year. Importantly, tuition pricing strategies need to be guided by data-driven research to ensure your prices reflect student interests to drive enrollment and revenue.

Ultimately, tough conversations and thorough research can make the difference between enrollment goal success and disappointment. If you’re ready to improve enrollment and brand sentiment, it’s time to consider a TPES.

Let us help you meet (and exceed) your enrollment goals. Schedule a free consultation with me now.

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