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Guaranteed Tuition and 4 Year Graduation: Part 1

Hand with guarantee ink stampThe University of Wisconsin offers a guarantee to graduate in four years. The University of Illinois guarantees its tuition for four years. Both offers are fairly new to colleges in general and don’t have much of a track record in terms of students enrolling under the programs. So which is a better deal? Or are they both just gimmicks for colleges to sooth the family fear of rising tuition costs?

Let’s take a closer look starting with the more tangible of the two offers: guaranteed tuition. If you attended the University of Illinois and had guaranteed tuition starting in the 2010-2011 academic year, you would have potentially saved $3,822. Had you attended St. John’s University in New York, a private school, your savings would have been $10,715.

Except that’s not actually the case at St. John’s.

See, for the 2014-15 academic year, undergraduate tuition is $37,870, that’s $1,830 less than the fixed (guaranteed) tuition of $39,700 for incoming freshman. That probably means your tuition wouldn’t fall below the “normal” tuition until your junior year. St. John’s estimates your potential savings at $2,000.

The St. John’s guarantee isn’t really about saving you money but more about easing the fear of the astronomical college costs we have all been hearing about. That’s according its website “Just think—you will know the total cost of your four years of undergraduate study before you even start college– and you and your family will not have to worry about annual tuition increases.” You know how much the tuition is for the next four years so you can plan accordingly and not worry about rate increases.

Except for room and board.

It’s not included in the guarantee.

Given that the total cost of attendance at St. John’s starting in 2010 was $216,194, a potential savings of $2,000 doesn’t seem to be enough to be a major factor in my choice of which college to attend.

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University of Illinois’ tuition guarantee plan works as you would expect so it really would be a savings of $3,822 over four years. But like the St. John’s plan, it doesn’t include room and board. The total cost of attendance for the four years without the discount would have been $111,816.

Now I’m not one to belittle $4,000 but given the total cost of attendance and the horror stories of $50,000, $75,000, or $100,000 in debt, I think people give more value to the guarantee than what it’s actually worth.

Which come to think about it, is probably exactly what the colleges intend.

You can argue that such tuition guarantees go a lot further a state institutions with lower tuition to begin with. Several states including Illinois and Texas have mandated four-year flat fees for their public universities. However, given that public institutions increase their tuition in response to cuts in state funding, you have to wonder as to the true cost of the savings. Guaranteed state tuition is good PR to mask reduced state spending on higher education.

The table below lists 103 four-year colleges with 500 or more full-time undergraduates with a guaranteed tuition based on information from the DIY College Rankings College Search Spreadsheet. I added schools that have announced that they will be implementing some version of tuition guarantees starting in the fall of 2015. Some of the guarantees apply to only selected students. This should not be considered a comprehensive list.

Next time, we’ll take a look at guaranteed graduation in four years.

Colleges with Guaranteed Tuition Plans

(4-year graduation rate for private schools, 5-year graduation rate for public schools)

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4/5 yr
AIB College of BusinessIAPrivate73269
Angelo State UniversityTXPublic47262880
Baylor UniversityTXPrivate130595657
Becker CollegeMAPrivate14491863
Brazosport CollegeTXPublic968
Cameron UniversityOKPublic360115
Chicago State UniversityILPublic28521329
College of William and MaryVAPublic61958933
Colorado State University-Global CampusPublic1520
Columbia CollegeMOPrivate944232
Concordia University-IrvineCAPrivate17464691
D'Youville CollegeNYPrivate16371679
East Central UniversityOKPublic30613098
East Texas Baptist UniversityTXPrivate10662074
Eastern Illinois UniversityILPublic73275562
George Washington UniversityDCPrivate96097433
Governors State UniversityPublic1293
Hardin-Simmons UniversityTXPrivate15613138
Hiram CollegeOHPrivate11175857
Hofstra UniversityNYPrivate63804559
Huntingdon CollegeALPrivate8983463
Illinois State UniversityILPublic166326869
Immaculata UniversityPAPrivate11844080
Kettering UniversityMIPrivate15921062
Lamar UniversityTXPublic66042577
Langston UniversityOKPublic183622
Lincoln CollegeILPrivate76387
Metropolitan College of New YorkNYPrivate8102055
Mid-Continent UniversityKYPrivate1903770
Midland CollegeTXPublic1544
Midwestern State UniversityTXPublic38613372
New England Institute of TechnologyRIPrivate2401
Northeastern Illinois UniversityILPublic50681360
Northeastern State UniversityOKPublic53072473
Northern Arizona UniversityAZPublic187694591
Northern Illinois UniversityILPublic138214956
Northland CollegeWIPrivate5394859
Ohio University-Main CampusOHPublic168636073
Oklahoma City UniversityOKPrivate16463972
Oklahoma Panhandle State UniversityOKPublic10502648
Oklahoma State University-Main CampusOKPublic177005776
Pacific Union CollegeCAPrivate14542351
Prairie View A & M UniversityTXPublic62342742
Quincy UniversityILPrivate10804289
Roger Williams UniversityRIPrivate38755181
Rogers State UniversityOKPublic25761654
Saint Josephs CollegeINPrivate10364064
Sam Houston State UniversityTXPublic133474465
Sewanee-The University of the SouthTNPrivate15807460
South Texas CollegeTXPublic103470
Southeastern Oklahoma State UniversityOKPublic26502580
Southern Illinois University-CarbondaleILPublic118444379
Southern Illinois University-EdwardsvilleILPublic95564684
St John's University-New YorkNYPrivate109083753
Stephen F Austin State UniversityTXPublic93333957
Sul Ross State UniversityTXPublic9292352
Tarleton State UniversityTXPublic74123457
Texas A & M International UniversityTXPublic40693248
Texas A & M University-College StationTXPublic396427669
Texas A & M University-CommerceTXPublic51793168
Texas A & M University-Corpus ChristiTXPublic72833493
Texas A & M University-KingsvilleTXPublic64302588
Texas A & M University-TexarkanaTXPublic92437
Texas Southern UniversityTXPublic53421045
Texas State UniversityTXPublic256654775
Texas Tech UniversityTXPublic243385766
Texas Tech University Health Sciences CenterTXPublic1197
Texas Woman's UniversityTXPublic63474186
The Sage CollegesNYPrivate14464157
The University of Texas at ArlingtonTXPublic159383360
The University of Texas at AustinTXPublic368997440
The University of Texas at BrownsvilleTXPublic456417
The University of Texas at DallasTXPublic106286059
The University of Texas at El PasoTXPublic1297328100
The University of Texas at San AntonioTXPublic200332173
The University of Texas at TylerTXPublic40913782
The University of Texas Health Science Center at HoustonTXPublic577
The University of Texas Health Science Center at San AntonioTXPublic740
The University of Texas Medical BranchTXPublic599
The University of Texas of the Permian BasinTXPublic19283284
The University of Texas-Pan AmericanTXPublic131193262
Transylvania UniversityKYPrivate10696896
University of ArizonaAZPublic285105677
University of Central OklahomaOKPublic109812584
University of Colorado BoulderCOPublic238536388
University of DaytonOHPrivate74536053
University of HoustonTXPublic228293658
University of Houston-Clear LakeTXPublic2092
University of Houston-DowntownTXPublic6895795
University of Houston-VictoriaTXPublic146651
University of Illinois at ChicagoILPublic154025371
University of Illinois at SpringfieldILPublic19694660
University of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignILPublic315168262
University of KansasKSPublic171935892
University of MiamiFLPrivate106376940
University of North TexasTXPublic244114160
University of Oklahoma-Health Sciences CenterOKPublic786
University of Oklahoma-Norman CampusOKPublic175386180
University of Science and Arts of OklahomaOKPublic8063862
Warner Pacific College Adult Degree ProgramPrivate858
West Texas A & M UniversityTXPublic55213874
Western Illinois UniversityILPublic88055059
Western Oregon UniversityORPublic44544088

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