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Willamette University Introduces Tuition Transparency and Increases Access to an Extraordinary Education Across an Expanding Range of Disciplines

WU leads its peers with 20% reduction in base tuition and strategic growth in academic programs.

Willamette University, the Northwest’s premier private university, is introducing a new way to think about affordability — and encouraging its peers to consider a similar approach. Redoubling its efforts to expand college access and transparency, Willamette has taken the landmark step of lowering its undergraduate tuition by about 20%, from $53,300 to $43,500. Willamette is the first private university in Oregon to make this move, which reinforces its commitment to equity in education and amplifies regional and national conversations about the true cost of college.

“Willamette is drawing on institutional strength, new strategic partnerships, and a broad-minded view of higher education to create fresh possibilities for our students, our community, and the world,” said Willamette University president Steve Thorsett. “As the Pacific Northwest College of Art becomes part of Willamette, and as we build a relationship with Claremont School of Theology, Willamette is embracing a sustainable and inclusive view of how universities will thrive in the 21st century. This tuition reset brings parity — and greater clarity — to what students will pay for a world-class education.”

Most colleges hide the true cost of attendance behind a high sticker price that is offset with scholarships or need-based financial aid. This opaque practice can have deeply unfair consequences. Students who are first in their families to attend college, those who can’t pay the full price out of pocket, and those who don’t realize they are eligible for need-based aid often steer clear of excellent schools, not realizing that they could pay much less than the published “sticker price” after financial aid is applied.

For decades, Willamette and its peers have increased list prices year after year, as the gap between the perceived and real cost of college grows ever greater. Today’s action restores clarity and transparency to college pricing.

“We are pleased to offer straightforward information about how our new tuition and substantial financial aid can make a transformative Willamette education more affordable,” said Mary Randers, Dean of Admission, College of Arts and Sciences. “This tuition reset goes a long way toward simplifying college costs, particularly for families who don’t want to sacrifice academic quality.”

Willamette’s choice to lower its published tuition rates makes it easier for all students to understand how much they’ll pay for college — and it’s a decision that aligns with the University’s core values. Willamette prepares students to take on profound global challenges with a panoramic view of potential solutions, while providing the stability and resources students need to become the kind of leaders who build consensus for the common good. Whether they’re tapping into Willamette’s deep roots in the liberal arts, law, and business, or exploring intellectual paths in art and design, students will benefit from a comprehensive array of educational offerings across 35 majors, six minors, and seven special programs. Now, they’ll pursue degrees with a clearer understanding of the cost.

An innovator in the liberal arts, Willamette believes that transparent, accessible tuition pricing benefits the entire region as well as its students. The University’s tuition reset is a bold community investment that bolsters inclusive intellectual development, financial sustainability, and access to meaningful resources.

The tuition reset takes effect at the start of the 2021 academic year. Current Willamette students will pay the same net price for their courses that they pay now, and most students will see a reduction in expected costs for the 2021-2022 academic year as compared to what they would have paid if the University had continued using the standard — but antiquated — approach to pricing. The tuition reset applies to all students in the College of Arts and Sciences.

“Price shouldn’t be equated with prestige,” said President Thorsett. “Willamette was one of the first highly selective schools to offer test-optional admissions with no application fee, two practices that most other top schools haven’t yet adopted. As the premier liberal arts institution in the Pacific Northwest, and the first among our peers in Oregon to significantly reduce tuition, I’m proud that Willamette continues to lead the charge to make paying for college less complicated, more transparent, and more equitable — for more students.”

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