The demographic shifts that characterize our national landscape point to a troubling truth: American families can no longer bear the full burden of the cost of higher education. Over the past two decades, tuition at private colleges rose an astounding 157 percent, with St. John’s rising even more.

On the face of it, a St. John’s education does not look that expensive. How expensive is a large table, some chairs, a chalkboard, books, and tutors? Between classes, students aren’t working out in expensive gyms, performing on professional-level stages, or choosing which gourmet dining option might entice them. They are reading. And the cost to St. John’s to provide this for each student is approximately $60,000 a year.

Much of what makes St. John’s so distinctive also makes St. John’s so expensive.

St. John’s educational structure represents perhaps the most expensive business model in liberal arts education. Our commitment to small seminar classes rather than large lecture-style halls is unwavering. So is our commitment to caring for the finest full-time faculty in the nation, in lieu of shaving our costs through the use and abuse of adjunct faculty. And our long-standing devotion to providing the Program to students at both ends of the country, on small campuses without economies of scale, is also unwavering. But these commitments bind us to a financial path with little flexibility.

As recently as 2017, the published tuition price at St. John’s exceeded $52,000, making us one of the most financially inaccessible colleges among our peer institutions. Alumni shared their concerns, telling us that St. John’s was unaffordable, that they could not afford to send their children to their own alma mater. They rightly questioned our complicity in a national social failing wherein a college education is no longer seen as accessible and colleges no longer serve as ladders leading to social mobility.

Unbeknownst to many families, higher education has been dominated for years by “prestige pricing,” a common practice in which colleges inflate their sticker prices in order to give the appearance of prestige but offer dramatic discounts behind closed doors. This pervasive cycle of perennial tuition hikes and behind-the-scenes discounts leaves families confused about their actual costs and is antithetical to St. John’s core values of authenticity and honesty.

Access to college should not be a bewildering game with hidden rules.

We are changing that for all future Johnnies.