Electronic Theses and Dissertations



Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Higher & Adult Education

Committee Chair

Ronald Platt

Committee Member

William Akey

Committee Member

Colton Cockrum

Committee Member

Leigh Harrell-Williams


Tuition discounting has long been an important component of revenue management at private institutions and has been steadily growing in prevalence in public institutions. The fundamental assumption of tuition discounting is that student enrollment behavior can be influenced by strategic optimization of student aid and tuition price. However, a literature review reveals the inherent tensions between relevant economic theories describing human behavior at the aggregate level, and student choice theories detailing the complex individual factors that combine to form a student enrollment decision. This three-part quantitative study evaluates trends in institutional tuition discount rates for first-time freshmen at public, four-year, not-for-profit institutions, identifies determinants of net tuition revenue, and evaluates whether there were significant differences in these determinants for institutions that successfully increased net revenue through tuition discounts. This study uses existing, post-secondary data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education System and other public data sources, focusing on a period of six years from academic year 2012-2013 to 2017-2018, with a sample of 446 institutions. The results show that median tuition discounts for first time freshmen increased from 20% to 23% during the timeframe of the study. Next, partial least squares regression analysis identify five key factors of net tuition revenue, and the student, institutional and economic variables that loaded onto those factors. Finally, Kruskal-Wallis H Test results indicate statistically significant results in 16 of those variables among institutions with different levels of net tuition elasticity. When results were significant, a post-hoc test of significance analyzed the mean ranks of institutions with different levels of net tuition elasticity. Institutions with fewer low-income students, higher ACT scores, better US News Rankings, higher state appropriations, higher freshmen and overall enrollment, higher nonresident enrollment, higher prices, and land-grant status were better able to leverage net tuition revenue through tuition discounting. There were no significant differences in elasticity groups for variables related to aid, including the unfunded tuition discount rate. The study concludes that there are significant implications for institutions in the formation of tuition discounting strategies.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to ProQuest