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The 2017 NACUBO Tuition Discounting Study (TDS), released today, shows that the average institutional tuition discount rate—total institutional grant dollars awarded to undergraduates as a percentage of gross tuition and fee revenue—reached an estimated 49.9 percent for first-time, full-time freshmen in 2017-18 – the highest level recorded in the TDS history. The rising discount rate means essentially half the tuition and fee revenue that private, nonprofit colleges collected from first-time freshmen in 2017-18 went to awarding institutional financial aid. The estimated institutional discount rate for all undergraduates rose to 44.8 percent in 2017-18, also a new all-time high. 

Results from the 2017 TDS are based on survey responses from 404 independent colleges and universities that were members of NACUBO as of September 2017. The latest survey collected final institutional grant awards and other data for academic year 2016-17 and preliminary estimates for 2017-18, as of Fall 2017.

Institutional discount rates have risen, in part, because a greater share of students have received institutional grant awards, and the average grant award covers a larger share of the average tuition price. Although the average published tuition and fee price has increased by 42 percent since 2008-09, the average institutional grant aid awarded per first-time freshman increased by nearly 78 percent over the same time—meaning that the average net tuition rate per freshman increased by only 19 percent. In addition, about 89 percent of first-time freshmen received institutional grants in 2016-17, and the average grant award covered roughly 56.7 percent of the tuition and fee list price.

Avg Tuition and Fee Price Chart

These rising institutional tuition discount rates have led to much slower growth in net tuition revenue. The estimated average growth in net tuition revenue per first-time, full-time freshman is -0.1 percent in 2017-18, compared with 2.8 percent a year earlier.

Given the slower growth in net tuition revenue, the TDS survey asked participants to describe the strategies their institutions used or implemented in FY17 to increase net tuition revenue. A majority of institutions focused on recruitment strategies (79 percent), retention strategies (73 percent), and/or financial aid strategies (64 percent).

A press release with more details of the study results is available, and a final report with study results may be purchased from the NACUBO Online Bookstore.


Ken Redd

Senior Director, Research and Policy Analysis



Lindsay Wayt

Senior Director, Analytics


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