Tuition Discounting Practices: A Multiple Case Study of New York State Private Institutions

Karen Vahey, University of Pennsylvania


The purpose of this study is to understand how decisions about tuition discounting were made at three private, not-for-profit institutions in New York State and to better understand the impact of discounting on the selected institutions’ financial position. This study also explores how discounting decisions at the selected institutions were made in light of a state-matching grant program as well as the objectives institutions attempted to achieve through discounting. This qualitative study used a multiple-site case study approach. Across all three cases, institutional goals to increase enrollment and revenue influenced tuition discounting decisions. Several other factors also influenced tuition discounting practices. These factors included mission, competition, athletics, and the enrollment of students with high expected family contributions. This study found that increases in headcount were often achieved; however, tuition discounting coupled with other institutional strategies likely influenced enrollment increases. This study confirms that the availability of a state-matching grant program influenced decisions to engage in further tuition discounting across all three cases. The cases in this study are heavily tuition dependent—in fiscal year 2017, tuition and fees generated 64% or more of their core revenues. While the three cases in this study have had years of increased undergraduate tuition revenue, they have not always been able to increase tuition revenue by substantial amounts or with consistency. As a result, each of the three institutions is implementing or considering additional revenue streams through increasing graduate or online enrollment or non-credit offerings, conference services and events, and improving retention. Each case is also implementing or considering efficiencies or cost-cutting measures related to staffing, benefits, or physical plant.

Subject Area

Higher education|Education Policy|Education finance|Educational administration

Recommended Citation

Vahey, Karen, "Tuition Discounting Practices: A Multiple Case Study of New York State Private Institutions" (2020). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI28001420.