Negotiating Tuition Prices with Colleges

As the students from the class of 2021 approach graduation and head into the final stages of the college selection process, many families are sorting through financial aid packages. These packages have a huge impact on their decisions. As families attempt to navigate this sometimes stressful process, many times they don’t know that tuition is negotiable. That’s right, tuition is negotiable and schools (often times) are willing to bid against each other for desirable students. Many people may ask, how is tuition negotiable and how do you negotiate ?

Before we answer that question, we must eliminate what we originally thought about colleges and universities. Most people see colleges and universities as institutions of higher education that prioritize students and families and always act in the students best interest. That is a complete myth. Colleges and universities are businesses first and foremost, and are out to make as much money as possible. Just like most other businesses, colleges and universities don’t want you (the student) to go to a primary competitor. So as a result, they are willing to give more financial aid to prevent that.

More often than not, if a school is aware that another school that they share applications with has made a better offer, then they are willing to re-evaluate financial aid packages. Schools are willing to do this because they view students as long term assets. Where most times students and families have more of a short term view. Schools have the mindset that if a student attends that institution, they will have a good experience, graduate, earn a well paying job, and eventually donate money back to that institution. In addition, schools are aware that alumni is more likely to have a child attend their school than someone who is not an alum.

Because of the pandemic, many schools have lost enrollment. Across the United States, college and universities are down close to 50% of their international population and between 10-20% of their out of state population. With that being said, many institutions, in particular small private institutions need students. This need puts families in a position of power from a negotiating standpoint.

In addition to competing package appeals, there are two other types of financial aid appeals that a family can do as well. The other two types of appeals will be covered in later articles.

About the Author

Todd Kelly is a former college student athlete and has worked in higher education for almost 20 years. He has worked in several different areas within higher education. This includes athletics, admissions, financial aid, alumni relations, career services, and student affairs.

financial aid process

These experiences led him to create Kelly College Consulting. Kelly College Consulting walks families step by step through the college selection and financial aid process. We help families save money on college tuition by showing them how to negotiate tuition cost, construct financial aid appeals, and have schools bidding against each other for their students. Feel free to visit us at

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