INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — In an effort to boost enrollment, Sierra Nevada College offered a 50 percent tuition discount to incoming freshmen and transfer students for the current fall semester.
While the deal has drawn some skepticism, it also has drawn more students to the Incline Village campus.
“We feel like it was a success,” said SNC Provost and Vice President Shannon Beets. “It was good for us financially and also for the experience in the classroom.”
This year’s incoming freshmen class increased from about 140 students to 170, the second highest jump in SNC history, Beets said. The private college’s goal is to reach an annual freshman enrollment of 200 students.
An increased student body “changes the culture on campus,” Beets said.
The 50 percent deal was offered two months before the start of the fall semester. Considering its success, it’s possible it will continue through January, Beets said, although nothing has been decided yet.
50 PERCENT OFF
According to the college’s website, the current cost of tuition at SNC is a flat rate of $27,753 per year.
Students who receive the discount will pay $13,876 per year this fall through graduation.
In terms of recruitment, SNC contacted community transfer counselors, as well as applicants on a mailing list who had decided to not enroll because of financial reasons.
“By allowing our admissions discount, we were able to go back to some students who really wanted to be here so they could afford it and make the move,” said Nicole Ferguson, SNC director of Financial Aid and Information Technology.
The discount doesn’t have any negative financial impacts at the school, Beets said, which has doubled enrollment since 2007.
“(SNC) is in the best financial shape in the seven years since I’ve been here,” she said.
KEEPING NEVADANS HOME
Last semester, SNC saw its highest graduation rate since it was founded in 1969. A total of 144 undergraduates and 132 grad students received degrees.
With the tuition discount, the college was eager to “fill the classrooms again,” Ferguson said.
Along with the discount, Nevada residents were also offered free accommodations in the dorms.
Ferguson said Nevada students often are offered financial assistance in hopes of keeping them in the state.
With a recent decrease in the number of Governor Guinn Millennium Scholarships doled out, fewer Nevada high school graduates are staying for school.
“We’d like to keep the best and brightest here,” said Beets.
SNC offers high school graduates in Nevada who qualify for the Millennium Scholarship an additional award — the Millennium Plus Scholars Award, which earns qualifiers an extra $12,500.
“We want to be useful to our local community,” Beets said. “We want to make sure that the option is available to Nevada residents.”
The deal has drawn criticism from students, especially those who put down a deposit last spring.
Sophomore Kayla Meltzer compared finding out about the tuition discount to seeing a designer sweatshirt for a cheaper price at Ross.
She said when she saw her friend’s Facebook post regarding the offer, her “heart sank.”
“If only I would have applied the following year,” she said.
Despite her disappointment, Meltzer said she is enjoying the school and her education.
“It was kind of upsetting — but if it was worth the amount of money I paid when I started then it’s still worth that,” she said.
A freshman who asked to remain anonymous said the discount helped her to choose SNC just before the start of the semester.
“I was thinking of going somewhere else, but I live here,” she said. “My mom told me about (the discount) and it helps, especially when it’s too late for any scholarships.”
Sophomore Christian Parsons didn’t receive the tuition discount, but said he is glad it was offered because he agrees with the college’s want for more students.
“I think it’s great,” he said. “It brings more people and more money to the school.”
Beets and Ferguson said they’ve talked with concerned students and parents about the offer.
Ferguson said she’s had 20 interactions with students, the majority ending positively as students were able to reassess their own financial packages.
“It was a positive experience for continuing students because they were upset but left feeling humble,” Ferguson said.
Freshman Maria Ramirez chose SNC last spring. Her early decision meant she wasn’t aware of the tuition discount.
Ramirez said the school worked with her, however, so she could afford the costs.
“My mom and I talked to the school about grants and they lowered the price a lot for us,” Ramirez said.
Private colleges use financial aid, scholarships and grants to help students pay for school. Many, including Loyola University New Orleans and St. Mary’s College in Maryland, missed their freshmen projections for the fall semester.
“The number of high school graduates is down and the demographics of who’s graduating is changing dramatically,” said Beets.
In response to the national decrease in admission numbers, offering discounted tuition is a growing trend.
“What we’re finding is that there is a lot of need for value right now,” said Beets. “Even putting a 50 percent discount out there dramatically increased applications.”
SNC also offers merit-based scholarships for incoming freshmen and transfer students for amounts ranging from $4,000-$11,000.
The average discount for private colleges, Beets said, is about 40 percent. Apart from the recent discount, Sierra Nevada College usually offers 37 percent in discounts.
According to the SNC website, 89 percent of SNC students qualify for additional scholarships or grants.
“If we can make it happen we will,” Beets said. “It’s the nice thing about being a small school.”
Jenny Luna is a freelance reporter for the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza and Sierra Sun newspapers. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We’d like to keep the best and brightest here.”
SNC Provost and Vice President