In 2012 the Huffington Post reported that student debt had reached an all-time high—with nearly 22.4 million households having college debt after graduation. However, BYU students might be able to avoid some post-graduation debt with such a significantly lower tuition cost.
According to CollegeBoard.org, the average tuition cost for national universities is $8,244, making BYU’s tuition cost of only $4,560 almost half the price.
Kent Norris, a counselor in the admissions department, financial aid and scholarship office, said people are often caught off-gaurd when they discover the low tuition costs.
“Sometimes people are surprised when I tell them that is the cost for two semesters, not one,” Norris said.
To understand why costs are so low, it is important to know the process universities go through to determine student tuition costs.
First, universities determine their overall operating costs including professor salaries, campus maintenance and cost of supplies.
When that cost is added up, universities subtract the funding they receive from the state or other organizations. What operating cost is left is generally covered in student tuition.
BYU’s operating costs remain relatively low and consistent because of a student cap in place that keeps the student body from growing to an unmanageable or expensive capacity. This makes tuition costs for students incredibly low, and Norris said it also encourages students to apply to the university.
“People are motivated to come (to BYU) because we’re private and cheap,” Norris said.
Another reasoning for low tuition costs is the funding BYU receives from the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which covers more than half of the university’s operating costs with Church tithes. Jay Hanson, director of Student Financial Services, said the main reasoning behind such an affordable tuition cost is because of the value the Church places on getting an education.
“The real reason (for low tuition) is that the leaders of the school see value in education and want to make getting an education as economic for students as possible,” Hanson said. “An educated base helps the Church and community as a whole.”
Because tuition is so affordable, some students are able to work summer jobs to help pay for the next year’s tuition. Kevin Cheetham, a mechanical engineering major, worked for a summer and saved enough money to pay for the entirety of his tuition.
“BYU tuition is very reasonable and cheaper than any other place I was considering,” Cheetham said.
Though a majority of the student population are members of the LDS Church, BYU makes tuition affordable for both LDS and non-LDS students. Although prices are higher for non-LDS students, they still substantially benefit from Church funding. The non-LDS tuition cost is comparable to out-of-state tuition costs for public universities. Just as in-state applicants benefit from lower tuition costs as a result of paying state taxes, LDS Church members pay a similarly reduced price from paying tithes.
Even with such affordable tuition, BYU still manages to operate a professional and reputable university.
“BYU does not scrimp on the important things — staff, lab materials, grounds (and) up-to-date computers — in spite of our lower cost,” Hanson said.