Tom Ries, the president of Concordia University, St. Paul, will retire next summer after eight years in office.

Ries, 63, announced Friday that he plans to step down at the end of the 2018-2019 academic year.

Under his watch, the Lutheran university has seen a 70 percent jump in its student population since 2013, when it took the unusual step of cutting undergraduate tuition by $10,000.

It now boasts the lowest tuition rate among Minnesota's private colleges, $22,275 a year.

"I am very pleased with what we have accomplished together during the last seven years," Ries said in a statement released Friday.

The university's announcement cited the "incredible growth under Ries, highlighted by soaring enrollment, academic program expansion," and a twofold increase in the university's net assets.

Concordia became one of a small but growing number of private universities to cut its sticker price in an effort to improve its bottom line. At the time, the university said that too many potential students were being scared away by its tuition, which was $29,700 in 2012, and that few actually paid full freight anyway, because of financial aid.

After cutting tuition by a third, the university saw a surge in applications and was able to reduce its financial aid dramatically. Since then, the number of students has grown from 2,800 to almost 4,800 last fall, and officials say enrollment is on track to top 5,000 for the first time this fall.

The university's board of regents will begin a search for his replacement this fall. Ries, who has been president since 2011, was formerly president of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod Foundation.

Maura Lerner • 612-673-7384