August 09, 2022
Beginning in 2023, Drexel University will make access to its bachelors degree programs more affordable with a 50% tuition discount for community college graduates from Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
The Drexel Promise program, unveiled on Tuesday, will welcome applications from transfer students who hold associate degrees from accredited community colleges in the two states. The goal of the program is to admit more students who are academically qualified, but may need additional financial resources and support to pursue a bachelor's degree.
The private university in West Philadelphia currently has an annual tuition cost of $56,595 for the 2022-23 academic year, plus an estimated $2,405 in fees and $16,980 for room and board. The university's Board of Trustees approved a 2.5% tuition increase in 2021, but froze the rise in cost until the winter term in 2022 in order to alleviate financial hardships related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
When all costs including books are factored in, the average annual price of a Drexel education is about $75,000, according to data from the U.S. Department of Education. Once federal, state and other forms of financial aid are factored in, Drexel's average annual cost of tuition is about $36,000.
The 50% tuition discount through Drexel Promise — not including state and federal financial aid — will reduce the cost to attend the university to about $28,297 in annual tuition for students who qualify.
By comparison, attending state-related Temple University, which is raising its tuition by 3.9% for the 2022-23 academic year, will cost $17,136 for in-state students and $30,864 for out-of state students. Factoring in other fees, room and board, Temple costs in-state students an average of about $31,600.
The Drexel Promise program specifically aims to raise the educational attainment of students who earn associate degrees.
Only about 20% of community college students graduate with an associate degree or certificate — and among them, only 31% ever transfer to a four-year college. Of those who do go on to pursue a bachelor's degree, less than half finish their programs within six years.
Students who qualify for Drexel Promise will get the same on-boarding and college experience support as first-year students at the university. They will also receive assistance to determine how their semester credits can be transferred into Drexel's quarter credits.
Evelyn Thimba, Drexel's senior vice president for enrollment management, said the university expects the new program will help transfer students earn their bachelor's degrees within three or four years.
“It certainly is a financial commitment, but it is also a commitment to offer holistic academic and personal support to ensure retention and persistence through graduation,” Thimba said in a release.
The Drexel Promise program will be open to students who earned an associate degree from multiple community colleges, as long as the college or two-year program is eligible. Those who already hold a bachelor's degree do not qualify for the program. Current Drexel undergraduate students who hold an associate degree also will not be retroactively eligible for the tuition discount.
Students who qualify for Drexel Promise won't be able to receive any other scholarships or aid from the university, but will still be able to apply for state and federal financial aid by filling out a FAFSA form. Those who receive the Drexel Promise scholarship will be required to maintain full-time enrollment and a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.0.
The program also will be open to people living in Pennsylvania and New Jersey who earned their associate degrees through an eligible online college.
Prospective students who are on their way to completing an associate degree program are still encouraged to apply and submit a final transcript prior to enrollment at Drexel.
The move continues long-term efforts to boost enrollment and diversity at Drexel, which adopted optional standardized test scores for the admissions process in recent years. As universities face mounting enrollment challenges, Drexel has spent much of the last decade trying to reverse the perception that its price tag is too steep. The school has a combined graduate and undergraduate population of just over 24,000 students, and has long touted its experiential co-op program as a practical leg-up for students to get real-world connections that can lead to job opportunities upon graduation.
But as difficult as it has been for four-year colleges to navigate the realities of higher education during the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact has been felt most by two-year programs.
The Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges reported earlier this year that enrollment at two-year schools has plummeted 25% over the last five years, a trend that accelerated with the onset of the pandemic.
Nationally, public community colleges and four-year institutions saw a combined drop of more than 604,000 students over the last year — a 5% decline, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Community colleges accounted for more than half of those losses.
Drexel currently enrolls about 650 transfer students each year, but the university expects the new program will increase enrollment in the region among students who might otherwise not seek a four-year degree due to the high cost of education.
“We’re excited to be able to make this commitment to transfer students that I think really aligns with our ethos and our mission to be able to provide access to a college education that is, like A.J. Drexel said, not only good, but good for something,” Thimba said. “In this case, we’re going to make sure we’re removing a financial barrier that has kept transfer students away from our doors.”