Donald Farish of Roger Williams University told the New York Times the model of high tuition with very few students actually paying full price is illogical. Experts say overall about 25 percent of students at private colleges pay full tuition, with a higher percentage at elite schools.
"It's a model that makes no sense, and makes you feel like you're in a Middle Eastern souk bargaining with the tourists who just arrived," Farish said.
But consultants told Roger Williams the university was likely to lose students if it cut tuition. So the school is sticking with its high price but guaranteeing incoming students that their tuition will not increase.
Farish said Roger Williams has seen both its freshman enrollment and its retention of other students rise since 2011.
Other colleges, however, are slashing tuition.
At Converse College, a small women's institution in Spartanburg, S.C., for example, the cost will be $16,500 next year, the Times said, down from $29,000.
Smaller colleges had operated on the assumption prospective students would see a high sticker price as a sign of quality. , however, that overall only 25 percent of students at private colleges pay full price.
"Schools wanted a high tuition on the assumption that families would say that if they're charging that high tuition, they must be right up there with the Ivies," David L. Warren, president of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, told the Times.
Now, however, they are going through a period of falling enrollment with tough economic times driving students to public institutions.