What are tuition waivers?
Tuition waivers are a type of financial aid used to help students pay for college. Student aid—a critical part of keeping college affordable—comes in many forms, including federal grants and scholarships. From a student perspective, all student aid serves the same purpose: reducing the out-of-pocket amount a student must pay for their education.
But from an institutional perspective, not all student aid is the same. For example, a scholarship provides actual dollars to cover the cost of educating a student. Tuition waivers, however, are not funded with actual dollars, but are a discount which reduces the amount of tuition an institution collects from that student.
Tuition waivers provide institutions in the Utah System of Higher Education (USHE) with a number of financial tools to keep college affordable, attract top performing students, and retain students through completion. Institutions are becoming more innovative with their use of tuition waivers, through programs such as Dream Weber and SLCC Promise.
How much tuition was waived last year?
A new report from the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education looked into how tuition waivers are used throughout USHE. It found that, in 2015-16, USHE provided over $125 million in tuition waivers, with $43 million on behalf of resident students and $82 million on behalf of non-resident students.
In 2006-07, USHE institutions waived approximately 10.5% of the total tuition they could have collected. Ten years later, in 2015-16, that amount increased to 14.5%.
Types of tuition waivers
In Utah statute, there are 21 variations of tuition waivers. In this analysis, tuition waivers are broken into the following categories:
- Discretionary resident waivers
- Discretionary non-resident waivers
- Reciprocal partnership waivers
- Targeted waivers
- Entitlement waivers
USHE Tuition Waiver Use by Category, 2015-16
Discretionary tuition waivers
82.5% of waivers awarded in 2015-16 were resident and non-resident discretionary waivers, amounting to approximately $104 million. These waivers are for students based on merit and/or financial need. For non-residents, these waivers can also be used to include alumni connection or athlete status.
Reciprocal partnership waivers
Over $12 million, or 9.7% of waivers awarded in 2015-16, were reciprocal partnership waivers. These include the WICHE Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE), Dixie Good Neighbor, border, and reciprocal agreement waivers.
These waivers have been approved by the legislature to help assist military families, dependents of fallen soldiers, police officers, and firefighters, wards of the state, foreign and undocumented high school graduates, and senior citizens. USHE institutions waived over $9.7 million in 2015-16, representing 7.8% of the waivers awarded that year.
These are generally reserved for addressing unique or pressing employment needs of the state. The only tuition waiver being utilized in this category is the K-12 educator professional development waiver, representing $24,000 in 2015-16.