Utica College/Facebook

College costs in the U.S. remain stubbornly high; Utica College in New York is doing something about it.

The private university, which has an average enrollment of about 3,000, announced Tuesday it was cutting its tuition nearly in half, from $34,000 a year to less than $20,000 a year.

"We are doing this because it needs to be done," the school said in an emailed release. As a result of rising costs, "too many students and families are not even considering a private college as a realistic possibility."

The school said very few students were paying the sticker price in the first place, though many families did not seem to realize the sticker price would not reflect final costs. Growing enrollment would further offset tuition reductions, the school said—this year's freshman class is 38% larger than last year's.

Students will still be able to qualify for need-based and merit-based financial aid, Utica said, although the amounts will be lowered.

Advertisement

A host of small colleges have looked into ending what Inside Higher Ed's Ry Rivard refers to as the "high-tuition, high-discount" model, with mixed results. While some have been able to increase enrollment to offset price cuts, others opt to keep high sticker prices in place, fearing the lower cost of tuition would make a school seem less prestigious—and less attractive to applicants. A consulting firm hired by Roger Williams College in Rhode Island reported back that students preferred tuition costing $36,000 (and receiving $13,000 in aid) over cutting tuition by $13,000 with no financial aid by a 2 to 1 margin.

But there does appear to be a trend. In 2011, Seton Hall University in New Jersey became the largest school in the country to announce a major cut, trimming $21,000 from their tuition bill to match Rutgers University's $10,104-a-year cost for most in-state students. (The reduced cost only applies to students who scored at least 1,200 on the combined reading and math sections of their SATs and graduated in the top 10 percent of their high school class.)

And Stanford, Princeton, and Dartmouth have made tuition free, Quartz writes, "for students whose parents earn less than $125,000 a year and have less than $300,000 in assets, excluding retirement."

Advertisement

Both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have included making college cheaper in their presidential-run platforms. But as my colleague Lauren LaCapra has pointed out, it will be very difficult for the government to do much about costs because demand for college continues to grow.

It looks like it will be up to the Uticas of the world to make the change.

Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.