Canisius tuition reset
In terms of enrollment, Canisius has long been the region’s largest private college. Enrollment climbed above 5,100 students in 2011, but the college has been shrinking ever since. Overall student headcount at Canisius dropped by 24 percent over the past five years, and Niagara University now enrolls nearly 500 more students than its athletics rival.
College officials pegged some of the decline on a perception problem. Too many students and families were looking at the college’s sticker-price tuition, which is currently $34,966, and deciding it was out of reach financially, even though Canisius offers generous discounts to most of its students.
Instead of big discounts, college officials decided to lower the price. Canisius rolled back its tuition for 201819 to 2008 levels. Instead of $34,966 or higher, tuition will be $27,000.
The big announcement has been accompanied in recent weeks by a new marketing and advertising campaign that emphasizes Canisius’ affordability. College officials expect the new pricing model to help turn around the enrollment losses by getting Canisius on the radar of students and families who previously would have ruled it out.
“With a 5 percent increase in freshmen enrollment, which really is about 30 students, the program is just about break-even for us. Everything above that starts to improve the situation,” Hurley said. “That’s just year one. As you roll this over four years, then it multiplies.”
Canisius’ enrollment has dipped most dramatically in recent years, but all of the region’s colleges and universities are in the same boat: Lower birthrates from years ago now mean smaller high school graduating classes.
“There are just flat out fewer students of college age each year,” said Gary Olson, president of Daemen College.
And since tuition dollars are the main source of revenue for area colleges, hitting enrollment targets is crucial to most schools’ bottom lines.
The Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities in New York estimated in March that Excelsior would threaten the viability of many of the state’s private colleges, and lead to thousands of job losses statewide. In Western New York, the lobby organization estimated an enrollment decline of 2,749 students. It pegged regional job losses at 1,377 positions – or $3.8 million in lost tax revenues.
CICU issued a new analysis Tuesday showing that most of the 48 private colleges and universities in New York that enroll primarily state residents saw enrollment declines this fall. Overall enrollment of first-time freshmen from New York at those private institutions was down by 8 percent from 2016, according to CICU.
Canisius for years set tuition higher than any of the 20 other colleges and universities in Western New York – and was still able to meet its enrollment targets. But that began changing a few years ago. Now, the price cut will move Canisius into the middle of the pack in tuition for four-year colleges and universities in the region. But it also limits Canisius’ ability to dole out big scholarships.