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PLU announces Fixed Tuition Guarantee, reducing financial risk to students and running counter to common higher ed practice

PLU announces Fixed Tuition Guarantee, reducing financial risk to students and running counter to common higher ed practice

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Fall on the campus of Pacific Lutheran University
October 18, 2021
By Zach Powers ‘10
PLU Marketing and Communications

Pacific Lutheran University has just announced a Fixed Tuition Guarantee that will ensure tuition for the 2022–23 incoming class of first-year and transfer students will remain the same throughout their undergraduate years at the university.

This guarantee disrupts the general practice of higher education institutions in the U.S., especially private universities, which routinely announce three to five percent tuition increases each spring.

“On average, students at private universities in the Puget Sound region are paying $5,391 (12.9%) more in their senior year than they did in their first year,” explained PLU President Allan Belton. “One of the problems with this model is that when tuition creeps up by three or four percent each year, a student’s annual scholarship funds and financial aid generally remain the same.”

“These gradual tuition increases often throw off the careful financial calculations that students and their families made to enroll,” Belton continued. “Some students and families can end up cumulatively paying upwards of $10,000 to $12,000 more for education due to these incremental tuition hikes, and these are real costs that don’t have additional scholarship aid. This can push families into financial hardship or force students to leave their university with debt but without a degree. We need to stop that cycle.”

University officials are confident in the potential benefits of the tuition guarantee, both to the well-being of students and to the enrollment of the institution. 

“This guarantee has the potential to widen our pool of prospective students, but most importantly, we think it has the potential to substantially improve graduation rates by removing the unnecessary financial burdens caused by tuition increases,” said Mike Frechette, PLU’s dean of enrollment management and student financial services.

While some schools have lowered tuition in an effort to grab attention, these reductions are often funded through equal reductions in financial aid — reductions that eliminate financial risk to the institution but fail to make education more affordable to students.

“At PLU, we believe in access, but access without success is not opportunity,” Frechette added. “I’m proud that PLU is helping to remove barriers to graduation through this clear financial support.”

What does this mean for Lutes already at PLU? Undergraduate students currently enrolled will be guaranteed their tuition will not increase above that of the 2022-23 incoming class.

This new tuition guarantee is the latest in a series of initiatives by PLU to reduce the financial risk to students, in particular students from middle- and low-income families. The university notably offers incoming first-year students The PLU Pledge, a loan repayment assistance program. The pledge offers a critical safety net to new PLU graduates by ensuring that once they are employed after graduation, if they earn less than $50,000 per year, PLU will help them repay their student (and parent PLUS) loans. 

PLU is also known for its 253 PLU Bound Full Tuition Scholarship, which is offered to students who are College Bound eligible, attend a high school in Washington State, and have a 3.30 or higher weighted cumulative GPA. Students who qualify are awarded full tuition for their four years at PLU through a combination of federal, state, and PLU grants and scholarships, as well as the College Bound Scholarship.

PLU has been widely recognized for its unconventional and trendsetting financial aid, access, and support initiatives. The university was recognized as the No. 1 school in Washington and ninth in the country for financial aid by LendEDU, was named Washington’s Best Small College for helping recent graduates find jobs by Zippia, was found by Georgetown University researchers to be among the top 13% of universities in the country for return on investment, and was recently ranked third in the West for “Best Value” by U.S. News & World Report.

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