Tuition drop at Concordia University seen as move to increase access, enrollment

L-R Daniel Guerrero, assistant professor of business at Concordia University Texas, Alison Alter, Austin City Council Member District 10, Kaitlyn Ruiz, president of Concordia’s Student Government and Leadership Association, Kristi Kirk, provost at Concordia, Jill Goodman,  CEO Leadership Austin, Cedrice Bennett, senior director of operations E3 Alliance

Concordia University Texas students and staff gather at a press conference on October 25 where a nearly 40% drop in tuition was announced.


Austin Monitor

In a bid to bolster enrollment that has slipped since the COVID-19 pandemic, Concordia University will reduce its published tuition cost by 40 percent beginning next school year, to $23,500. The change is a reduction as well as an acknowledgement of the standard cost paid by most students once financial aid and assistance are factored in, rather than the nearly $40,000 per year that was the school’s most recent price point.

Concordia, which is located in Four Points, started this academic year with approximately 1,600 total students, with 1,100 as undergraduates.

Kristi Kirk, Concordia’s provost and executive vice president, said the tuition drop is an acknowledgment that middle-class students tend to have the least access to higher education and the training needed for in-demand careers in nursing, law, public policy and kinesiology, which are among the school’s strengths.

“We believe really deeply in being a place where we want to give students a chance to succeed in higher education, particularly those who might not believe that they have a chance to be successful. Oftentimes, it’s finances that keeps them from even considering college or choosing not to go to college at all,” she said. “Our biggest competitor is students who don’t go to college at all. So our biggest competitor is nowhere, right? It’s the $18-an-hour, $16-an-hour job that students are attracted to.”

While enrollment numbers across the nation for the 2023 school year look promising, overall enrollment declined 2 percent in 2021 and 2022. In Texas the drop was more severe, with a decline of more than 4 percent, including a 10.4 percent drop at public two-year colleges.

Kirk said Concordia didn’t have to mount a substantial capital campaign to change its tuition structure, a move many schools have undertaken as part of the recent trend in private colleges reducing their costs for students. She said there is ongoing fundraising to fund endowments that help cover costs for financially challenged students.

“The institution brings down the sticker price through institutional aid, whether that’s kind of merit-based aid, academic scholarships or need-based aid. What we’ve done in here is simplified the sticker cost, since many students will pay roughly the same amount that they have already paid that’s highly individualized based on individual circumstances, or what federal aid they qualify for,” Kirk shared.

While Concordia is a private school, it has had some involvement with city resources, specifically training for nursing students arranged through the Capital Idea nonprofit group that was funded with money provided by the American Rescue Plan. Kirk said the school is open to more partnerships with organizations such as Workforce Solutions Capital Area to help train more workers in priority occupations as Austin continues to grow.

City Council Member Alison Alter, whose district includes the university, pointed to the nursing training as one of the benefits the school provides alongside other higher education institutions in the area.

“It is in the city’s interest for all of our institutions of higher education to flourish. And when they are able to make opportunities available to members of our community so that they can gain skills and credentials, that is only to the benefit of all of us,” Alter said. “This is an institution that trains many young people in our community to do very important jobs like nursing and business and other kinds of things. It says a lot about the organization that it’s recognizing the need to provide this kind of financial approach, but also it says something about them that they were able to find the way to do it.”

Austin Monitor, an online, nonpartisan, 501(c)3 nonprofit publication that covers local government and politics in and around Austin.