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Can You Get a College Tuition Discount?

Updated: June 19, 2024 | Published: September 29, 2021

Updated: June 19, 2024

Published: September 29, 2021

Can You Get a College Tuition Discount featured image

When it comes to college tuition, did you know that you can enter into negotiations surrounding the cost? Many students are unaware that a tuition discount is even an option.

However, in many instances, you can reap success by simply trying and asking for a reduced rate.

Here, we will share everything you need to know about what a college tuition discount means and how you can negotiate your tuition.

Source: Pexels

Can You Negotiate College Tuition?

Since most students accept college tuition at face value, it’s not in a college’s best interest to let you know that there’s a chance for negotiation.

However, it is the case that many colleges and tuitions will be open to the conversation about lowering the cost of attendance, be it through tuition, room and board, or other fees.

What is a Tuition Discount?

Tuition discounting is the process by which an educational institution will offset its listed price to enroll students. They do so through the use of institutional grant aid and scholarships.

Tuition discounting includes gift aid that is awarded on a merit basis or needs basis.

According to a NACUBO study, the percentage points by which colleges are awarding discounts is growing year-over-year. In 2018-2019, the average tuition discount rate at a private, nonprofit college was 51.2%.

How to Negotiate College Tuition Costs

There are different methods to negotiate the cost of college tuition. For starters, you can send a nicely worded email to your school-of-choice’s financial aid or admissions office and state your case for needs-based or merit-based awards.

Alternatively, you can receive your financial aid award and negotiate or appeal it after the fact. Before summer, most schools will send out their award and financial aid packages based on your FAFSA submission. If you find that your granted amount of aid is not sufficient, you can submit an appeal.

Within this letter of appeal to the school’s financial aid office, you should include:

  • Why you need more financial aid
  • Financial aid awards that other competing schools have offered you
  • The basis of your appeal, be it because of merit or financial need (or both)

Along with the aforementioned tactics, you can consider alternative options or explore more ways in which you can make the college of your choice more affordable.

Here’s a look at some ideas that all work to lower the cost of attendance:

1. Tuition-free schools

There are schools, like the University of the People, which are tuition-free. Everyone who applies and enrolls at the University of the People will not be charged tuition. There are some fees associated with attendance, but they are minimal in comparison to the cost of attending most other schools.

There are other options for tuition-free schools, too. You can attend the United States Air Force Academy, for example, but that will require service in the U.S. armed forces in order to reap the tuition-fee component.

2. Tuition waivers

There are some institutions that will provide students with tuition waivers, based on need-based financial aid. This means that if your family income falls below a certain threshold, the school will offset the tuition to take that fact into account and make it affordable.


Work-study is another option to help pay for a school’s tuition. By finding a job on campus, you can work to reduce your tuition costs as a portion of your salary will go towards paying for school (on a pre-taxed basis).

Additionally, some institutions may waive tuition entirely if you are an employee at the school.

4. Hardship tuition waivers

While each institution is different, some schools may provide a hardship tuition waiver. For example, if you experience a death in the family or a parent loses a job, then you can ask the school about a hardship tuition waiver.

5. Legacy programs

Some institutions maintain a legacy program, which means that if you have a family member, like a parent, who already graduated from their institution, they will provide you with the option to apply for a specific scholarship.

6. Summer classes

It’s possible that the cost of tuition will vary based on when you take the classes. For example, some college classes are cheaper per unit in the summer term. If you have flexibility to earn credits any time of year, then summer could be a more cost-effective opportunity to do so.

7. Military discounts

If you have served in the military and are a veteran, you may be eligible for a tuition discount. You can check in with your school’s financial aid office, admissions office, or website to see if this holds true.

Source: Pexels

Financial Aid Options

Financial aid is money that helps students pay for college tuition, books, supplies, room and board, transportation, and other related living expenses.

When it comes to covering the cost of earning your higher education, there are different types of financial aid (that can contribute to tuition discounts). These include:


Grants are money that doesn’t have to be repaid. There are state-sponsored grants along with private grants or school-supplied grants.


Loans refer to money you can borrow to pay for school, but they must be repaid. In most instances, they get repaid with interest, so there is a cost to borrowing the money. The government has options for public loans. Or, alternatively, you can seek out private loans (but these tend to be more expensive than public loans).


Like grants, scholarships are another form of free money that may be merit-based or need-based. You can utilize CollegeBoard’s CSS profile to find out what scholarships apply to your specific case.

Affordable College: You’ve Got the Power

The cost of college varies greatly based on the type of institution you choose to attend. Regardless, the fact is that college tuition costs continue to rise. As of 2020-2021, the average cost of tuition and fees at private colleges was $41,411 and $11,181 for state residents of public colleges. These figures give a good reason to try to receive a tuition discount.

Alternatively, you always have the option to attend the University of the People and earn your degree from an accredited, online, and tuition-free college.

At UoPeople, our blog writers are thinkers, researchers, and experts dedicated to curating articles relevant to our mission: making higher education accessible to everyone.