By Nathan Ress & Janelle Harb
On 3 Oct., Canisius President and former Griffin Editor John J. Hurley announced Excellence Within Reach, a tuition reduction initiative. The Excellence Within Reach initiative will lower undergraduate tuition by 23 percent, returning it to 2008 levels. Tuition for the 2017-18 school year currently rests at $34,966, but with this initiative, it will be set to $27,000 beginning with the 2018-19 school year. Graduate tuition will not be affected by this initiative.
In addition to this, the initiative also reduces housing costs by $2,000, eliminating the Resident Student Scholarship of the same amount, which had been held previously by all students living in residence halls.
Canisius will continue to offer merit scholarships and need-based financial aid, however they will be lowered in relation to the reduced need. For instance, the Trustee’s Scholarship awarded to freshmen for four years has decreased from $18,000 to $13,000 yearly. This would be a 28 percent decrease.
Canisius is the first Jesuit institution to enact this initiative, but one of over 50 colleges in the last 20 years that have taken action to reduce the cost of tuition on their students.
President Hurley sees this as Canisius serving as an example in the discussion regarding the accessibility of higher education, something he is aware of and feels a responsibility towards. He said, “You don’t want to be tone deaf on this; you want to be listening and responding in an appropriate way.”
“We’ve been following this issue for probably at least five years,” Hurley continued, “looking at the experience of other schools.” He views this change as a “response to families’ concerns about the expense of higher education, and [hopes] that they would give Canisius a chance to show them how a Canisius education might be affordable.”
Hurley stated that schools who had done this ten years ago were in “much worse financial shape” and it looked like an “act of desperation.” This was something he was very aware of, and keen to avoid as the initiative was announced. Hurley and admissions officials were attentive to survey data regarding this issue. Beneficially, students surveyed “viewed it as evidence that the College was being responsive to student concerns, that it was more in tune with its students.”
Hurley went on to explain that he couldn’t have imagined the announcement of Excellence Within Reach going any better. The advertising and marketing campaign was developed over a period of seven weeks, by no means an expansive amount of time. Still, in this time the team devised an effective strategy that is working in Canisius’ primary markets.
“We wanted to also create a general buzz in the big communities where we’re recruiting – Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse – and send a clear message about what we’re doing and why we’re doing it,” Hurley said. President Hurley pointed out that the marketing campaign is targeting online platforms such as Twitter and Facebook – places prospective students are most likely to visit – as well as television and radio, thus maximizing the number of views in the most relevant audience.
USA President Amelia Greenan has reported that the Excellence Within Reach announcement has resulted in a 50 percent increase in website clicks on Canisius’ webpage. Furthermore, President Hurley stated that those who are viewing the Canisius webpage are staying longer, up to five minutes at a time on a single page.
Asked about the mathematical impact of the initiative, President Hurley believes there would be no negative effects. Though the school will be taking in less money per student, Hurley is confident that the initiative will create a larger attendance which will more than make up for this lower income. In this way, he hopes to incur minimal cuts to the school’s budget.
“We had to look and say, ‘how many students are currently paying more than $27,000 in tuition?’ and the amount that you lose from those students… gets made up by recruiting additional students,” said Hurley.
Hurley also hopes that the reduced housing cost will not only draw more students on campus, but also make housing prices more clear. As was mentioned, each student who lived on campus received the $2,000 housing scholarship, which in Hurley’s mind seemed like an extra step. Furthermore, this caused confusion if these students then moved off campus and saw a $2,000 increase in their tuition. Now the listed price more accurately reflects the cost of living on campus.
Now, Hurley says, “If you’re going to evaluate moving off campus, you know exactly what the housing price is.” Additionally, he sees Canisius housing as already a worthwhile expense listing amenities that are included such as utilities, cable, internet, heating and air (in certain locations), and proximity to campus.
Following the most recent Canisius open house this past weekend, Saturday, 14 Oct., Hurley remarked, “I don’t think I have a more important responsibility than to help the College recruit students.” He referred to several conversations he’s had with prospective students and their families where he brought up the issue and was received well. Hurley said for the parents of potential students tuition is “probably the number one concern.”
The Griffin was also able to talk to a variety of students and their families at the open house, all of whom at the very least knew about and were interested in the tuition decrease. Several mentioned that the decrease helped Canisius compete with SUNY schools in the area. Currently, according to the SUNY school system’s website the cost for an NYS resident student to attend a SUNY school and live on campus is $21,120, and to commute is $12,170.
Finally, Hurley commented on the unifying factor of the tuition decrease among faculty members. He stated that the faculty senate was on board, and that all members of the faculty and staff were “singing from the same song sheet” on this issue.
Hurley relayed that the lowered tuition still reflects the same great education the College offers, and hopes that it will attract new students who will further benefit from what Canisius has to offer.