Exploring the Effects of Tuition Increases on Racial/Ethnic Diversity at Public Colleges and Universities

Drew Allen, Gregory C. Wolniak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


As tuition becomes a more prominent tool to address financial challenges of colleges and universities, it is critically important to examine the implications of tuition increases on institutions and their students. The goal of this study is to examine the effects of tuition increases at public 4 year and community colleges on institutions’ racial/ethnic composition. The study addresses two primary research questions: What are the effects of tuition increases on racial/ethnic diversity at public institutions over time, and do the relationships between tuition increases and racial/ethnic diversity at 4 year institutions vary by institution selectivity? The study uses multivariate analyses with fixed effects models to estimate the relationship between observed changes in tuition and racial/ethnic diversity across U.S. public 4 and 2 year colleges and universities across a 14 year period. The standardized measure of institutional diversity we utilize allows us to consistently evaluate changes in overall racial/ethnic composition of enrolled students that enables comparisons across different institution types. Our findings suggest that tuition increases at open-access, non-selective public 4 year institutions are negatively and significantly associated with the racial/ethnic diversity of enrolled students. This same negative relationship can be seen among 2 year public institutions, and the effects are more pronounced in full-time, first-time freshmen as compared to the overall full-time campus population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)18-43
Number of pages26
JournalResearch in Higher Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 15 2019


  • Community colleges
  • Diversity
  • Enrollment
  • Institution selectivity
  • Public colleges
  • Tuition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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