Higher Ed, Pathways

Rising Costs in Higher Education: Strategies to Help Students Succeed

Parchment Staff  •  Aug 15, 2023  •  Blog

News of rising costs has dominated the headlines for over a year, affecting everything from the price at the pumps to the cost of groceries and clothing. And unfortunately, higher education is feeling the impact, too. The cost of tuition for colleges and universities rose 2.3% for the year ending May 2023, proving consistent with the five prior price increases. And that increase doesn’t even take into account higher costs for everything from faculty and administrative salaries to supplies, materials, and utilities.

The Impact of Rising Costs in Higher Education on Students and Institutions

The impact of cost increases in higher education stretches beyond the higher costs colleges and universities incur. Inflation prompts many institutions to increase tuition and cut course offerings to offset rising costs. But for students who are already struggling to complete their degrees on time, the added costs and inability to access the courses they need to graduate add stress, too.

Further, students who take dual enrollment courses during high school or who transfer from one institution to another encounter hurdles as well, with many losing hard-earned credits (and tuition dollars) during the transfer process.

Institutions need to find new ways to help students stay on track and on budget. And as costs continue to rise, addressing these challenges becomes even more acute.

Battle Rising Costs in Higher Education Through Course Sharing

Successful institutions know that when their students succeed, they succeed, too. That’s why ensuring students can access the courses they need — when they need them — is critical. Unfortunately, many institutions find that they just can’t offer enough courses or sections of courses to make access possible for every student. For some, adding courses or sections would require adding more faculty or more space, which they can’t afford. For others, they just don’t have enough students to fill the seats, making the cost of adding another section difficult to justify.

Course sharing offers institutions an alternative way to expand their course offerings. Course sharing is a strategy where two or more like-minded institutions collaborate to make their courses available to each other’s students to count for credit at their home institution. The institutions can be public systems, consortia, or even individual schools that opt in to a network of shared courses.

When institutions employ course sharing as a strategy, their students have a better chance of finding the course they need, which in turn, helps them to stay on track to graduate on time. And in times when costs continue to rise, graduating on time and on budget is critical. Course sharing also helps institutions fill empty seats by expanding access to a broader pool of students from their partner institutions.

Lastly, when institutions provide students with additional class options that keep them on track, students are less likely to stop out or drop out. The result is that retention rates improve, and for institutions that qualify for performance-based funding, their funding may increase as well.

Make Transfer Credit Practices Better

Students transfer institutions for a variety of reasons. But in times of inflation, transferring institutions is key to keeping costs in check for many students. In fact, it’s not uncommon for students to spend their first year or two at a community college before transferring to a four-year institution to complete their degree. However, too often, students who transfer lose a number of their hard-earned credits in the process, which prolongs their educational experience. In fact, according to our 2022 study, Barriers to On-Time Completion, 33% of students lost more than half their credits during the transfer process.

By managing course equivalencies more efficiently and effectively, institutions can minimize credit loss for transfer students. The right technology can help students see if—and how—their courses count towards their intended degree. That way, if they have plans to transfer, they can feel confident that the courses they take will meet their degree program or credential requirements.

Expand Dual Enrollment Opportunities

Dual enrollment isn’t new. But in recent years, many institutions, community colleges in particular, are relying more heavily on dual enrollment as a strategy to help students address the increasing cost of a degree. Many institutions have dual enrollment programs in place today. But the demand is growing, giving colleges and universities the opportunity to grow their programs – and their enrollments.

When high school students participate in dual enrollment, they save time and money – both critical during times when costs are on the rise. And they gain access to courses sooner, which builds their confidence and promotes a greater chance of student success. Supporting these programs with technology that supports dual enrollment is critical so that students can feel confident that the courses they are taking will count towards the degree they wish to pursue. That way, they avoid falling into the trap of lost credits, time, and money.

While some forecast that inflation rates are on the decline, the impacts of the recent rises in the cost of tuition will persist for some time. For colleges and universities, exploring innovative strategies such as course sharing, improving transfer credit practices, and dual enrollment will help ease the cost burden for students while in turn, increasing their chances of staying on track to successfully reach their educational goals.

To learn more about how Parchment’s Pathways suite of student mobility solutions can support your institution’s strategies to offset rising costs, please schedule a meeting.

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