It seems counter-intuitive that in a bad recession Cedarville University would deliberately increase the cost of attendance so dramatically. Yet their explanation for this is that more money will be diverted to financial aid to ease the burden of needy students. Their already-established goal is to increase aid by 20% every year, though since ’02-’03 they’ve only averaged a 16.4% yearly increase. But things may be looking up: in ’07-’08 (the last years I could find numbers for), aid was increased almost 22% over the previous year, coming out to $13.1M in total. CU is proud of this, and also touts the increase in aid as “over 100% in the last 5 years.” This, of course, depends on which five they’re counting & whether or not they adjusted for inflation. Unadjusted, they hit this number almost any way you slice it. However, if properly adjusted then it could be a different story: if they’re using numbers from ’07-’08, then in the last 5 years financial aid only increased 85.9%. Of course, it’s not unreasonable to assume they have the ’08-’09 numbers, on which I can only speculate. In order for their claim to be true however, they would need a 21% increase which — as mentioned above — is above what they’ve typically done. So it’s possible, and we can certainly hope it’s true.
Historically, however, Cedarville has not been known as a FinAid-friendly school. Among 53 CCCU schools surveyed by Noel-Levitz, CU ranked dead last on the category “Adequate financial aid is available for most students.”
The last school year for which tax forms are available (the non-profit 990’s) is 2006-2007, so we can do a comparative analysis for that year. CU has a list of “sister schools” that it routinely compares itself to; I analyzed 15 of these, plus I also added John Brown University. As always, these numbers are in 2009 dollars (click to enlarge):
For an average student, between 24.6-25.9% (mean/median) of the cost of attendence is mitigated by financial aid — CU’s reputation is warranted given its average of 15.65%. However, CU’s costs are slightly below the average of $28.1/$26.7k. The numbers for Grace College in Indiana certainly jump out, where costs are below par but where you’ll get virtually no financial assistance. Part of the reason for this is that the school itself is not financially healthy — as you’ll see in our next installment, it’s one of only two colleges on this list which did not turn a profit in ’06-’07… Can you guess the other one?