In an opposite move to the one recently proposed by the University of California, a small, private college has taken the tack of actually decreasing tuition. Why would they make such a move? This is especially a pertinent question because it is generally accepted that tuition moves in one direction (up). According to the president of Blackburn College, in Illinois, a major factor in the decision was that too much time was spent haggling with students and families over competing aid packages from other colleges.
Taking the same cultural capital analysis used in the UC post, we can imagine why this might be the case. Students and families with high cultural capital know that you can actually bargain with colleges on their financial aid packages. This creates strange dynamics at the colleges and universities in which tuition is raised so that they can offer more “merit” aid to applicants. This allows for more maneuverability in attracting and haggling with high income/high cultural capital students to whom such a merit scholarship appeals (free registration required).
Blackburn College, though not carrying the weight of the prestigious University of California by a long shot, is nonetheless sending a clear message that the rules of the game are fixed for those who are in the know. They could continue on the path of increasing tuition and bargaining with students over aid packages, but have decided the better approach is to decrease tuition. This has the parallel effect of signaling to low cultural capital and low income students (those who may potentially most benefit from a higher education) that Blackburn is one private college that may be attainable.
-ERIK RUZEK, ED261