50: Total Price Transparency at Columbia College (Missouri) w/ Dr. Scott Dalrymple

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Dr. Scott Dalrymple, President of Columbia College, discusses how they’re working to improve price transparency for Columbia students with their no-fees all-in “Truition” model.

You're listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education, the best professional development podcast for higher education leaders looking to grow enrollment at their college or university. Whether you're looking for fresh enrollment growth techniques and strategies or tools and resources, you've come to the right place. Let's get into the show. Welcome back to enrollment growth university. A proud member of the connect ETU podcast network. Him Eric Olson, AVP of marketing at Helix Education, and we're here today with Dr Scott Dalrymple, Presidents of Columbia College. Scott, welcome to the show. Thank you. Really excited to talk with you today about how you're working to improve price transparency for Columbia students. But before we dig into that, Scott, can you give the listeners a little bit better understanding of both Columbia College and your rule? They're sure Columbia college is originally a Liberal Arts Institution. Was We were founded in one thousand eight hundred and fifty one and Columbia, Missouri. There are other Columbia colleges, but we're we're that one. So we've been here for a long time and we have a traditional liberal arts campus that most people would recognize as such a lot of brick buildings and, you know, students playing volleyball and things like that, and we're very proud of that. We have about maybe one thousand hundred students on that campus and along with a number of evening students. But years ago, decades ago, the college started expanding across the country, both on military basis and otherwise, and we now have approximately forty locations across the country, really coast to coast, in twelve different states, and we typically provide adult education in those venues. We also started an online program very early in the year, two thousand so, and we were offering full degree programs at that point, so that we really grew rapidly into one of the larger online programs in the country at certainly at that point when there weren't that many competitors. Now there are more...

...competitors, we're still substantial and overall we probably have a the given day little over Twentyzero students. Awesome, Scott. Let's dive in. Let's talk about why price transparency is so important for students and how you're you're hoping to improve transparency with your truishtion model at Columbia. Well, I've been a believer for some time that the next real innovations and higher end are not necessarily going to be at tech innovations. I think there will continue to be those, but I think the great innovations are going to be in the way education is priced. I think there have been some very interesting things out there. You've got some of the CBE providers, like Western governors, doing in all you can eat buff a pricing, you know, to can get as many capitancies done as you can within a year and so forth. You've got people talking about income base repayment loans. I hear less of that lately, but certainly people talking about some really interesting ideas on how to affect us to loan issue. And I think it's just there's more to come. I mean we actually were brainstorming here and saying we I believe this, I think this is the next big things, the thing we're in. What else can there be? And we started to look at you know what, I was a teacher of business for years and I used to tell students, you know, if you're entrepreneur, you look for the place people are complaining and we ask ourselves what were people complaining about? Well, besides price. In general, students complain about a couple of different things. They complain about fees, especially at some institutions where fees can rival tuition if you had them all together, and the complain about the cost of textbooks. So we asked ourselves what can we do, if anything, to affect those issues, and the more we thought about it, the more we thought we might be able to solve both issues and create truly transparent pricing for students. And I'm sure we'll talk about more details later, but that's what really led to what we call tuition. Yeah, and...

...and talk about that truition model in general. This is this is I've heard you compare it to we're doing, for for high right tuition, what southwest did for for airline sees. How does that truition model work? It really was a model. In my mind. Southwest Airlines really came along and they just said, hey, you're not going to mess around, we're going to show you what the price is very transparently. They had a very good website early on and it was very easy to compare prices as they even split it up into a right, you know, departure, flight and return plate, and you priced them out separately and it's just very transparent. It tended to be lower cost. Now always the low cost, but very, very transparent. We thought that that ethic would apply to high read very well. So again we ask ourselves, how can we be transparent? So we said, well, people are complaining about when they sign up for college they don't know how much the fees are going to be down the road. They know what you know, they were charged today, but often there are other fees that come down the road. They also don't know what their textbooks are going to cost and they could be substantial. So we said, what if we just took care of all that for them? What if we could we have a model where we eliminated all fees of all kinds for our adult venues? We're talking here. This is our online program and our adult students. Can we eliminate all fees? No application fee, no graduation fee, no transcript fees, no proctoring fees, no anything, no technology fees, no kind of fees at all, the parking fee, and we would forego that revenue, which is a lot of revenue for anybody. We could we forego that revenue, and is there a way for us to negotiate with publishers directly in bulk on behalf of our students and drive down the price. So we are the textbook purchaser and we are providing textbooks to all of those students direct clean. Because it's just us, we are going to be able to negotiate a better deal than anyone could independently. Tools were the two goals, the fee and...

...a textbook. Then we modeled it out and we said, you know, at what point, you know, can we do this and still stay in business? Essentially, we are a nonprofit. have been since eighteen fifty one. So our goal is to improve people's lives. That's that's our actual version of our actual mission statement. So we are not in it to make huge profits. We we want to improve more lives. That's how we succeed. So we modeled it out and we came to a place where we thought, okay, we can do this, and that number came out to be three hundred and seventy five dollars a credit our for undergraduate learners and that's it. That's all in. So three hundred and seventy five. All of your textbooks are included, all your fees are included. Even things like lab kits and other things that you'll need are included. So there's really no fine print at all in there and we think that that will resignate very well for students and also, by the way of a quick footnote, when it comes to our military students, are those who are on military tuition assistance. We will we're meeting the military tuition assistance cap of two hundred fifty. So in other words, if you're receiving MTA, you will pay nothing out of pocket to us. Now we will will have no fees and no textbook charges and we're not aware of anyone else doing that. So our goal is to remove some of these barriers to education. It's awesome. It's awesome, Scott. Now that you have this all in price, any concerns that you're all in truition number may look comparatively higher than other institutions who aren't including their fees in their listed tuition price. Not a lot, and the reason is we were already quite low price. We were already quite low price and low fee already. So we got a fairly low percentage of our revenue from fees. Between one and two percent of revenue is from fees. That's much lower than many of our...

...competitors have. So before going that was not a huge issue. So that piece is hard for others to replicate, although not impossible. That's fine, but we already compare when we look at a lot of our main competitors, even at three hundred and seventy five, we're all we're less than there to wiship right at three hundred and seventy five. I get that's a big country. Fozero colleges. You can find, you know, people who win in any different kind of battle. But when we look at the colleges that we tend to see as our main competitors, we stack up really well. Even with tuition. You reference this earlier, but partially you've been able to get to this truition model by lowering the hard costs of some of your existing student fees. Talk about how you crafted some of those publishing deals in these moves to electronic textbooks that have helped decrease these gossic Columbia. Sure you bring up a good point which I haven't mentioned yet, which is the way, the really the only way to practically make this work is to move almost entirely to electronic texts. We work with our faculty and other advantage we have we have a we have a tender track faculty here that oversees the curriculum. But they're very forward thinking and they work very well with the administration and they understand the adult market and they've been very, very helpful in coming up with quality texts from major publishers that they find good enough to pass muster. And so we're working with the major publishers, Pierson, McGraw, hills and gage else, of her the usual suspects. We've got deals with all of them and in eighty, about eighty five percent of the cases we found electronic texts that our faculty says, Hey, these are great. You know some cases they're shifting their own, you know, traditional classes to them. So that's about eighty five percent of the time. About fifteen percent of the time we said no, there isn't really anything we're totally happy with or for some reason we have to stay with a physical text. And there's different disciplines where it's just harder...

...to get things any text. We are the actually shipping out the physical text to the students. So we didn't go all electronic. We just went mostly electronic, and what that does is it allows us to be a large publisher or a large purchaser of textbooks. So when we call Pearson, you know they're happy to talk to us because we have twentyzero students and it's been very interesting. I it's it's very early in this process. We're not the first college to negotiate with the publishers, that's for sure, but we're finding that it's still not normal and I think one of the reasons is at many colleges they don't have the same structure of academic oversight. In other words, you can go to a very large university where you've got a thousand faculty members, each making their own individual decisions, of course, but they don't particularly want to work together with the administration to come to a deal. or eighty five percent our etechs or something like that. So it's even their many colleges, much even larger than us, who probably could not implement truition Scott in institutions. Discount rate, the average amount of institutional aid granted to a student is still one of those x factors when we talk about price transparency. Any future desires to incorporate discount rate somehow into your truition model. Well, now I need to go back to the original discussion of the college. I remember I told you we had a traditional college here in Columbia Missouri and then we had all these other venues and online education going on all over the place. Those are both Columbia College. The degree, the curriculum, the learning outcomes us for the same we get a Columbia College degree, but we don't operate them exactly the same in every way and we have decided not to pursue truition for our residential students or our full time, you know, our traditional age full...

...time students who come here to Columbia Missouri. They are not part of the truition plan. You know the other nineteen thousand students are, but the students here we're not changing the pricing structure and we do some minivate if things there. You know we obviously, yes, we discount like you, through scholarships, like everyone else. We also have a five year tuition rate lock. When people come in, we we promised to keep their tuition the same. They're just other benefits of being a student here on the day campus that make it so. We really are in a position to do truition now in the faculty ecademic freedom issue becomes a stronger issue here on the day campus. So we honor that and at this point we're not going to truition for the day campus. So and they the B part of that is in the adult venues, those other nineteen students. Frankly, it's this, I guess, the way to put us. The savings are already baked into that tuition rate. That three hundred and seventy five is much lower than the day students pay, and we discounting in scholarships are not quite as robust there. God, it's got. It's got. Today you're ahead of the pack when it comes to price transparency based on state and National Regulatory Trans is that we're seeing? Do you anticipate other institutions quickly following in your footsteps on this sort of pricing transparency, either by choice or by eventual mandate? HMM, quick answer is no, that we're happy to have them follow us. I think would be good for students. I don't know if they mandated. That's interesting. I haven't really run into that thought before, whether it would be mandated by government. I've not even heard a rumble about that. They had nothing to do with what we started doing it, but we you know, I don't think people will follow me. A couple of things. I think it's again the the economic freedom issue is is no trivial thing on most campuses. It's not trivial here either, but we had a faculty who has a history of working with us very, very well, lost being the administration. That maybe the case...

...other places it may not be the case. I think that's an issue. And again I'll go back to the point where we were already low fee. So we were kind of uniquely positioned to go no fee. If you have fees of you know, you could easily find colleges that have, I think ten fifteen percent of their revenue is from peace. It's pretty hard to flip US switch and go to zero on that. Yeah, you'd have to raise tuition so much that the market may not see that as a good thing. So the fact that we were, you know, one to two percent of revenue was fees put us in a pretty strong position to just go all the way. It's got any final next steps? Advice for other institutions who are listening, who are considering following your lead? On pricing transparency, but perhaps nervous to do so before everyone else does or because of those academic freedom issues that you brought up. Well, I think we welcome other people joining in because I think when it gets to full transparency it's just better for students. So now you know they don't have to worry about that piece. They can. They can pick an institution based on whether it's the right fit for them academically or socially or convenience wise or whatever they're looking for. They don't to worry about am I being told the actual price? But we think it'd be great if everybody went to it. I mean it's obviously up to them. I do think it'll be harder for other institutions, but we say the more the Merrier and, as you can tell by all the data that I've shared with you here today, we take of you that we're happy to share. I've benefited personally from folks from other colleges being generous to me, helping me bounce ideas off them, helping me understand their operations, and I alway said I want to pay it forward. We're pretty transparent and that's why I've, you know, told you is very specific numbers and percentages and things, because you know, we have nothing to hide. We were. If people think we're doing a good thing and want to follow us, we're happy to help...

...them do that. Scott, thanks so much for your time today. Based on that spirit of generosity that you've seen in the highered community. What is the best place for listeners to connect with you if they have any follow up questions? Well, if you like, you can just so. I'll give you my email address. Just it's is easy one. It's just president at CCIS DOT EDU, so CCIS is in Scott. That ed you. Not My favorite Ed you addressed, by the way, but those are really hard to say. But there's a pocryphal lower on why it was made that so many years ago. But I'll be happy to if if I'm not the right person to answer a question, which is often, then I can forward it to the appropriate person. Awesome. Thanks again so much for joining us today, Scott. Thank you very much. Attracting today's new post traditional learners means adopting new enrollment strategies. Helix educations. Data driven enterprise wide approach to enrollment growth is uniquely helping colleges and universities thrive in this new education landscape, and Helix has just published the second edition of their enrollment growth playbook with fifty percent brand new content on how institutions can solve today's most pressing enrollment growth challenges. Download it today for free at Helix Educationcom. Playbook. You've been listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show on Itunes or your favorite podcast player. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time,.

In-Stream Audio Search

NEW

Search across all episodes within this podcast

Episodes (253)