Guaranteed Tuition is a Guaranteed Fraction of a Student’s Bill


Now that Adams State University (ASU) is implementing its Guaranteed Tuition policy, we decided to look at how these numbers actually affect a student’s overall bill. While Guaranteed Tuition has been marketed “to help make the costs of a college education more predictable for undergraduate students and their families,” our analysis concluded that this policy only controls about one third of the total cost for an on-campus student to attend ASU.

According to the most current calculations available, In-State Resident (IS) students will pay $2,868 per semester for full time tuition (12-20 credit hours) in the 2016-2017 year. But this is just one of eight line items on a student’s bill – which also includes per-semester fees of:

  1. $432 for College Fees
  2. $214 for Technology Fees
  3. $1,013 in Capital Fees
  4. $50 in Security/Parking Fees
  5. $150 in Matriculation Fees
  6. $1700-2450 in Room Rates
  7. $2075-2275 in Meal Plan Rates

In total, a semester at ASU for an IS student will cost about $9000. Of that amount, the “Guaranteed Tuition” represents about 32% of that, or one third of a student’s bill.  This doesn’t include additional costs – such as course fees, lab fees, textbooks, and other living expenses such as car insurance and health insurance, which may also factor heavily into a student’s overall budget.  ASU has no student healthcare plan available and ASU Human Resources has rejected calls to offer one.

These per-semester cost ratios are virtually identical when calculated for an entire school year.


These fractions change with Out-of-State Resident (OS) and Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) Resident tuition rates. OS students will pay $8,376 in tuition and WUE students will pay $5,544 in tuition. These groups may also be eligible for scholarships such as the Experience Colorado and Lone Star scholarships. As such, OS and WUE students may be the greatest beneficiaries of the Guaranteed Tuition policy relative to their overall college expenses, but at a substantial cost to the university’s own revenue stream since OS student tuition rates typically cover some of the shortfalls that IS student tuition rates create.

This fraction of the overall bill has the potential to mislead many students.  While ASU’s Guaranteed Tuition policy sets each class year to a fixed rate, ASU does not guarantee that any of the other seven line items on their bill will be fixed. Even at that, all students should be aware that the “Guaranteed Tuition” policy has many loopholes in addition to representing only a fraction of the overall cost of college. ASU has produced a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page with over 30 questions, totaling over 2,000 words of exceptions and clarifications.

Most notably, the ASU FAQ page states “fees are charged separately and may vary by academic year.”  This runs contrary to the purpose of Guaranteed Tuition as to “protect students and their families from sudden spikes in tuition and enables them to estimate and budget for college expenses more accurately.”

Also, according to the FAQ page, Guaranteed Tuition does not cover two major degree programs at ASU.  These programs have “Differential tuition” and ASU states, “Differential tuition applies only to degree programs in Nursing and Business and is in addition to base tuition rates. Differential tuition rates are not guaranteed or included in the base tuition rate.”  These are yet more exceptions to a guarantee that is a fraction of a student’s bill.

This may be a bureaucratic headache for students, but the staff tasked with managing and tracking Guaranteed Tuition has an even more difficult set of factors to manage.

In order for ASU staff to track these numbers, Guaranteed Tuition policy creates “cohorts” to include year enrolled and IS, OS, and WUE tuition rates. Between these two factors, we calculate this creates at least 12 separate “cohorts” under which students would fall in order to track these rates throughout the next four year degree cycle. No additional staffing resources have been allocated to the existing ASU workforce to assist with these additional tasks.

We have written before about how the Guaranteed Tuition policy was implemented by the Board of Trustees without a full understanding, awareness or even consent of the ASU employees tasked with managing it – see Guaranteed Tuition a Guaranteed Distraction. We also reported on the many other universities who have abandoned similar policies due to financial shortfalls as well as lackluster retention and completion outcomes with Other Universities Abandoned Guaranteed Tuition – Here’s Why. We also identified that ASU’s announcement of Guaranteed Tuition was among the reasons that ASU had its credit downgraded with Moody’s Downgrades ASU’s Credit Rating.

Guaranteed Tuition restricts tuition rates as a revenue source for universities in an effort to attract more students for net growth. Thus far, that growth remains to be seen. With the confusion and misleading aspects of Guaranteed Tuition, the outcomes would still be worthwhile if the policy were indeed an effective marketing tool to recruit students.

However, preliminary estimates for fall 2016 enrollment at ASU have reported that undergraduate enrollment is down about 4% from fall 2015. Watching Adams will confirm these numbers after the fall census date in early September.

The ASU tuition and fees data used for this article is available here: