Date of Award



© 2019 Lynda J. Holt

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)



First Advisor

Leslie P. Hitch

Second Advisor

Laura Bertonazzi

Third Advisor

Keiko Broomhead


Small, non-selective liberal arts colleges have been increasingly caught in a cycle of deepening discount rates to ensure student enrollments while raising tuition rates to earn more funds from students paying the full cost. However, continually discounting tuitions to attract students can lead to a point of diminishing returns, at which the college is no longer able to achieve the net revenue necessary to cover the operational costs of the institution. Several colleges have undertaken a tuition reset to both lower listed tuition and limit the discount rate at the college. The action to undertake a tuition reset is a long-term, complicated, complex series involving hard work and hard decisions. The colleges undergoing the reset have their own measures for success. Some are financial for the college, but others concern outcomes for students, including reductions in student debt load.

Using the case study method, this research examines tuition resets at three liberal arts colleges, including their goals, their metrics for success, and their success in meeting those stated goals. The research overall concludes that colleges that choose to reset their tuition need to be prepared for the long haul. Tuition reset is not a short term strategy but one that should be thoroughly researched, scrutinized and weighed to provide the best opportunity for success. This research also shows that success can be in the eye of the beholder. The college administration may consider the reset a success even though not all aspects of the reset effort paid off, or the longer term results of the reset are beginning to wane. While the tuition reset process and the underlying goals were unique to each college, some universal observations did emerge. For instance, the data that the schools gathered about their regional competition often surprised them, revealing that they were not losing students to other regional private institutions, but to state schools with lower price points. In addition, each school integrated the reset into a larger strategy of fiscal responsibility, affordability for students, and overall strategic changes at the college.


Ed.D. Dissertation