In this Saturday, Aug. 6, 2011 file picture, students attend graduation ceremonies at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Ala. The number of borrowers defaulting on federal student loans has jumped sharply, the latest indication that rising college tuition costs, low graduation rates and poor job prospects are getting more and more students over their heads in debt. The national two-year cohort default rate rose to 8.8 percent in 2009, from 7 percent in fiscal 2008, according to figures released Monday
After years of steady tuition increases, colleges and universities across the U.S. are reducing costs or holding them steady.

After decades of tuition increases at U.S. colleges and universities that have led to increased student debt and pushback from students and their families, some schools are reducing costs. 

At the University of Michigan — ranked among the top public universities in the U.S. — free tuition will be extended at its Flint and Dearborn campuses. Called the Go-Blue guarantee, the offer applies to new full-time students residing in Michigan with a 3.5 grade-point average (GPA) on a 4.0 scale, with a family income of $65,000 or less or assets of less than $50,000. 

The University of Michigan has 6,666 international students, according to the university's International Center, and the state has a large Arab population. 

"Not only will most in-state undergrads see no change in their net tuition costs, we estimate that more than a quarter will pay no tuition at all," University President Mark Schlissel said.  

Clinton College, a historically black college (HBCU) in South Carolina, is cutting tuition in half for its students this fall and will give every student a new computer tablet. Associate Vice President of Student Enrollment Jocelyn Biggs said the COVID-19 pandemic has created hardships. 

"This is our way of saying you can still go to college at a reduced tuition amount and we're here to help," Biggs said.  

Tuition for full-time students living on campus is $10,165 per semester and $5,240 for those living off-campus. Clinton College was one of many schools established by the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church during Reconstruction after the U.S. Civil War, to help eradicate illiteracy among freedmen, according to its website. It has operated for 120 years. 

The Kentucky Community and Technical College will maintain tuition from last year's rates.  

"The board wanted to help students, and we felt keeping our tuition at the same rate would help thousands of families," Board Chair Gail Henson said in a news release. 

Out-of-state students from counties contiguous to Kentucky pay $358 per credit hour. All other out-of-state students pay $627 per credit hour. International students typically pay out-of-state rates.  

Tuition for in-state students at the University of Maine also will not increase in the coming academic year. The university has more than 600 international students from 70 countries and offers generous scholarships to those students, according to its website. Maine has a significant immigrant population from Africa. 

The University of South Carolina announced it will freeze tuition at last year's rates. Other universities are issuing increases of about 1% to 2%. 

The cost of tuition and fees at U.S. colleges and universities is the No. 1 reason that international students seek higher education elsewhere, in places such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand, according to the Institute of International Education (IIE). Those countries have been trying to attract foreign students through less expensive tuition and fees since enrollment in U.S. schools began to slide three years ago.  

"The costs of U.S. higher education remain a perennial challenge in attracting international students, with 55.1% of institutions citing costs as one of the reasons for falling new student enrollment," according to IIE's Open Door report released in November 2019. 

Celebrity donations recently have contributed to some students being able to study for less.

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Yale University recently received a $150 million donation from David Geffen, a Hollywood business magnate, to the newly renamed David Geffen School of Drama at Yale. As a result, the university dropped its tuition for any student pursuing a degree or certificate in drama. It will allow the drama school to eliminate tuition for all degree and certificate programs, the university said.   

Another billionaire, MacKenzie Scott, philanthropist and former wife of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, has made three rounds of donations to 286 organizations, including U.S. colleges and universities, totaling $8 billion.

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Those schools include Borough of Manhattan Community College in New York City, College of the Desert in California, Florida International University in Miami (FIU), the University of Central Florida in Orlando (UCF) and Broward College in Fort Lauderdale. 

In the case of UCF, the gift was the largest in the school's 58-year history. 

In 2020, Scott made two similar surprise announcements in which she donated a combined $6 billion to fund COVID-19 relief, gender equity, historically Black colleges and universities and other schools. 

The gift will help UCF toward its goal of becoming the world's leading public metropolitan research university, said UCF President Alexander Cartwright. 

"The gift is a sign of trust and validation of our direction, and of the promising work that lies ahead for us and all our partners," a statement from Broward College said. "We send a tremendous thank you to MacKenzie Scott for this gift that will create economic mobility in Broward County for generations to come."  

"This generous gift is a game-changer for FIU and our students' success for generations to come," said Mark Rosenberg, FIU's president. "Ms. Scott, [her husband] Mr. [Dan] Jewett and their team have taken note of our work serving a diverse student body and developing evidence-based strategies that have proven effective in helping our students succeed. This gift allows us to augment programs that we know work, develop models that can be replicated elsewhere, lift communities and combat poverty." 

Twitter user @ramblingroses8 tweeted, "I don't know what I'd tell a kid today. I absolutely needed college because I'm an intellectual who wanted to explore ideas. it didn't make me much $ in the long run, but it was worth it to me. I did it on many jobs, aid & student loans, but it wasn't this expensive."

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press. 

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