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RNL 2020 Discounting Report for Four-Year Private and Public Institutions
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"RNL 2020 Discounting Report for Four-Year Private and Public Institutions"

The 2020 Discounting Report for Four-Year Private and Public Institutions looks at financial aid benchmarks for first-year and transfer students. These metrics allow enrollment managers to compare their results to peer institutions and identify opportunities to optimize your financial aid awarding. Metrics include average discount rates, average net revenue per student, yield and melt rates, FAFSA completion rates, and additional breakdowns.

After years of steady increases, overall discount rates finally appeared to be stabilizing last year. From 2010–2017, the average discount rate for RNL’s four-year private client institutions increased from 37.3 percent to 42.6 percent. However, from 2017–19, the discount rate has increased less than 1 percentage point, from 42.6 in 2017 to 43.3 percent in 2019. For our public client institutions, discounting fell from 16.7 percent to 14.4 percent in the past year and is the lowest rate since we began including public colleges and universities in this study.

That stabilization is certainly a welcome sign for enrollment and financial aid professionals. However, at the same time, enrollment has stagnated for several years, and in fall 2019, fell across all sectors of higher education by 1.3 percent according to the latest government data.1 The flattening of overall enrollment growth resulting from demographic and socioeconomic changes has been underway for several years. With more competition for fewer students, enrollment managers will need to make sure they provide the aid that students need and expect in order to secure their enrollment.

This report summarizes aggregate data from public and private institutions using RNL Advanced FinAid Solutions. It includes key metrics for enrollment, financial aid, and net revenue, including:

  • 10-year trends on overall discount rates and average net revenue
  • Key fiscal data such as average family income, expected family contribution (EFC), and unmet need
  • Average “melt” rates (those who deposit but do not enroll)
  • Data on first-time-in-college (FTIC) students and transfer students
  • Breakdowns by region, institution selectivity, campuses with athletic programs, and resident/nonresident students


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