MANCHESTER — Southern New Hampshire University will offer different tuition levels for its on-campus undergraduate programs next year that will be at least 50% less than its current rate.

The offerings include $10,000- and $15,000-a-year options, compared to its current $31,000 cost, the college announced Wednesday.

The college first announced its goal to offer $10,000 tuition options in April but hadn’t determined how campus academic programs would look starting in the fall of 2021.

“We increasingly recognized that too many people were struggling with the cost of traditional residential higher Ed, and we feared students would be increasingly unable to attend or that they were just taking on too much debt,” said President and CEO Paul LeBlanc on Wednesday afternoon.

The pandemic accelerated the push for the new program design. The college originally planned to offer the more affordable options by 2023.

“We realized that we really couldn’t wait. This year’s high school seniors really would be struggling,” LeBlanc said.

“We think the struggles of the last recession will pale in comparison to what we are going to see in this current economy,” he said. “For us, we’ve always been about: ‘How can we remain accessible and affordable?’”

Starting in the fall of 2021, SNHU will launch six programs for $10,000 — or $320 per credit hour. The programs include entrepreneurship, game art and interactive design, game and simulation programming, construction management, communication and graphic design and media arts.

In those programs, at least 36 credits will be earned through studio work, lab work, project-based courses, internships or industry certifications. Classes will take place in-person and online.

The “Experience More” programs are career-focused and designed to prepare students for the workplace more rapidly, according to an announcement by the university.

The programs are available for freshman and rising sophomores enrolled at the college. Up to 1,050 current freshman were offered free tuition as the new programs were rolled out.

“We’ve run a whole bunch of experiments and new kinds of programs at $10K to realize how we would get there,” LeBlanc said. “We didn’t start this from ground zero. We are distilling a lot of learning we’ve done over the last few years.”

The $5K difference

Tuition will not top $15,000 for about 70 career-focused majors.

“We think for some students the $10K programs will be better suited, and then for other students the $15K program will be better suited,” LeBlanc said. “If you are in a $15K program it is going to look familiar. It is going to be regular classes with your regular faculty and you’ll have electives you can choose from.”

The college is able to reduce costs through restructuring financial aid and other efficiencies. It will change merit-based to need-based financial aid to “level the playing field” for all students, according to the announcement.

LeBlanc called the cost of tuition across higher education “a broken model that too often leaves students behind.”

Financial aid will be simplified, LeBlanc said.

“We’re not going to have these confusing financial aid sheets,” he said. “It is going to be very clear, and it’s going to make what I think has been fairly opaque for many families very simple. ‘This is your out-of-pocket costs. This is what it will cost to come here.’”

LeBlanc said the change in tuition will make a college education affordable for more students.

“By reducing the cost of tuition and moving from a merit-based financial aid model to a need-based model, we are adding clarity to what is currently an overwhelming process, providing transparency into the ‘real costs’ of a degree, reducing the average debt load a student is saddled with post-graduation, and increasing access for the students who need aid the most,” said Jodi Abad, associate vice president of student financial services, in a statement.

About 800 SNHU staff members worked for eight months to rethink the cost and delivery of campus-based education.

LeBlanc expects a lot of interest in the programs.

SNHU also wants to expand its campus enrollment from 3,000 students to 4,500 students by 2025.

Online programs already costs $10,000 for full-time undergraduate programs.

“We always think of online as being the working adult with kids,” LeBlanc said. “We got something like 30,000 traditional college-aged students in our online program. Students are voting for that $10K tuition in huge numbers.”

The college also plans modest reductions to room and board, which was most recently listed as between $9,000 and $11,000 on its website.

“There is less space to innovate with room and board,” LeBlanc said. “Meals are meals. Beds are beds. There is not a whole lot we can do about that.”

LeBlanc said the reduced tuition will not mean a “less quality or diminished” experience.

“We have a pretty good track record,” LeBlanc said. “We haven’t raised tuition in years.”

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