Mills Col­lege slashes tu­ition 36 per­cent for 2018 school year amid fi­nan­cial cri­sis

The Mercury News Weekend - - OBITUARIES & IN MEMORIAMS - By Emily DeRuy ederuy@ ba­yare­anews­group.com Con­tact Emily DeRuy at 510-208- 6424.

Mills Col­lege, the fi­nan­cially strug­gling Oak­land women’s col­lege, will cut tu­ition a whop­ping 36 per­cent in 2018.

The un­ex­pected move comes as the col­lege grap­ples with a mul­ti­mil­lion­dol­lar deficit and as both the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia and Cal­i­for­nia State Uni­ver­sity raise their tu­ition for the first time in years.

But the school thinks the shift will ac­tu­ally help in­crease en­roll­ment.

“It’s a growth mea­sure,” the col­lege’s president, El­iz­a­beth Hill­man, said dur­ing a phone in­ter­view.

Tu­ition had been $44,765, a fig­ure that gave sticker shock to a num­ber of fam­i­lies who might have dis­missed the school as too ex­pen­sive. But around 95 per­cent of stu­dents re­ceived fi­nan­cial aid, mean­ing few ac­tu­ally paid that full price. By low­er­ing the sticker price to $28,765, the school hopes it will at­tract new in­ter­est.

Room and board costs will add about $17,000, but the to­tal cost will still be sig­nif­i­cantly lower than it has been in re­cent years and a lit­tle closer to the cost of at­tend­ing Cal­i­for­nia’s pub­lic uni­ver­si­ties. UC’s in- state tu­ition is around $13,000, with to­tal costs for in-state stu­dents liv­ing on cam­pus run­ning around $35,000, while in-state CSU stu­dents pay about $6,000, or around $30,000 for liv­ing and din­ing on cam­pus.

“It’s ex­cit­ing to think about us be­ing so clear about what our costs are and reach­ing peo­ple we haven’t been able to reach oth­er­wise,” Hill­man said.

The ac­tual out- of-pocket cost for most stu­dents won’t change all that much. No stu­dent will see an in­crease, Hill­man promised, with most see­ing a slight de­crease. In other words, the change won’t nec­es­sar­ily save most stu­dents a lot of money, but it will bring posted tu­ition prices and what stu­dents ac­tu­ally pay more in line with each other.

Women and par­tic­u­larly women of color, who make up more than half of Mills’ 1,300 stu­dents, take on more stu­dent debt than men, and tend to pay it back slower. “We’re con­cerned about the debt bur­dens that women take on,” Hill­man said.

The tu­ition re­duc­tion will af­fect un­der­grad­u­ate stu­dents and take ef­fect in fall 2018. As of last year, grad­u­ate stu­dents at Mills pay by the unit.

In May, fac­ing a $9.1 mil­lion deficit, Mills de­clared a fi­nan­cial emer­gency for the first time in its 165-year his­tory. Hill­man im­ple­mented a num­ber of changes, in­clud­ing lay­ing off tenured pro­fes­sors and cut­ting en­tire de­part­ments. Hill­man said the school has cut the deficit by about half this school year and has met its pro­jected en­roll­ment tar­gets.

“We feel good about the ap­peal of Mills,” she said.

STAFF FILE PHOTO

Mills Hall is one of the orig­i­nal build­ings at Mills Col­lege in Oak­land. The school will re­duce tu­ition for un­der­grad­u­ate stu­dents 36 per­cent be­gin­ning in fall 2018.

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