TCU’s tuition can be steep for families earning less than $100,000 a year


The One Million Reasons program helps students prepare for the future by building financial literacy skills.

By Caroline Love

TCU’s rising tuition and low discount rate might be shutting the door to some aspiring Horned Frogs, especially those from lower-income families. 

“Frog legs are expensive,” said Nowell Donovan, the provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs. He said the number of TCU students from the top one percent of income levels is nearly equal to the total count of students from the bottom 60 percent. He added TCU is losing lower-income students as its tuition increases.

TCU’s direct estimated cost for the 2017-18 school year is $58,090 – tuition alone was $44,670. Next year tuition is set to increase to $46,806, meaning a 4.9 percent increase.

Karen Espino, a junior mechanical engineering and math double major, received a full ride, the community scholar award, for her last two years at TCU. Timeka Gordon, the director of inclusiveness & intercultural services and the community scholar program, said Espino was awarded the scholarship after another student lost their scholarship privileges. Before she received the community scholar award, Espino said she had to rely on other financial aid.

“I would not be able to afford coming to TCU if it wasn’t for financial aid,” said Karen Espino, a junior mechanical engineering and math double major.

Donovan cautioned that TCU’s tuition isn’t affordable for anyone who earns less than $100,000 a year.

He said the amount of the scholarships and grants available to TCU students through the university is low when compared with other institutions. The scholarship rate or “discount rate” for TCU is 30.9 percent, compared to a national average of 44.2 percent for private universities, according to a survey conducted by the National Association of College and University Business Officers in 2016.

Chancellor Victor Boschini said the low tuition discount rate at TCU is a “product of supply and demand.”

Boschini said the low discount rate allows TCU to spend more money on other things, including facilities. He added other schools have to spend money on financial aid instead of spending it on something else benefiting students.

“We have been lucky enough to not have to do that,” Boschini said.

TCU has taken steps to reduce the cost of applying. First-generation applicants can get waivers for the application fee, said Heath Einstein, TCU’s dean of admission. He also said TCU lowers the cost of applying by allowing applicants to self-report test scores.

TCU is need-blind, which means income isn’t factored into the admission process, Einstein said. To meet all student financial aid needs the endowment would have to increase.

Espino said TCU should increase its tuition discount rate to match the average private school discount rate.

“There are a lot of people at TCU who have to take out loans and are in debt because of this,” she said.

Lexy Vorhies, a senior strategic communication major, said the high tuition probably does deters some lower-income students from applying.

“It is a high tuition price,” Vorhies said. “It does kind of intimidate people, which is why we have low diversity on campus.”

Espino said the TCU’s rising tuition costs create financial stress for students. “I know a few students who have really big loans,” Espino said. “Because of this, have more stress than they should.”