While a college’s reputation and the availability of unique and varied course offerings remain the most important factors in the college selection process, research shows that students and their families are also deeply influenced by the escalating cost of higher education. This scenario is further complicated by the reality that the operating budgets of many small private colleges are entirely dependent on student tuition and fees to cover salaries and administrative costs. Although the value of the educational experience grows, tuition increases to cover operating costs often result in increased student loan debt and declining retention rates as students find themselves unable to pay for college.
In an effort to address this affordability challenge, the Executive Committee of the Friends University Board of Trustees is pleased to announce a tuition reset strategy for traditional undergraduate students whereby the University will offer the incoming class of 2015 a four-year tuition lock.
As Interim President Dr. Darcy Zabel explains, “A tuition lock is our way of investing in students and showing them, tangibly, that we are committed to making college affordable for them, not just for that first year to get them hooked on Friends, but for all four years.”
The tuition lock is also designed to motivate students to complete their degrees within the four-year time span. Under the reset strategy, students entering Friends University in Fall 2015 will have their tuition rate locked in for four years as long as they continue their status as a full-time Friends student. Continuing students at the University will feel some relief from the tuition reset strategy as well, as the Board of Trustees further announced that tuition for those students will be frozen at the Fall 2014 rate for the 2015-2016 academic year.
Friends University is committed to the national agenda regarding the containment of college costs. Typically, private schools in Kansas and the surrounding states raise tuition approximately 4 percent a year, leading to a cost uncertainty which eventually can price many students out of the market before their studies are completed.
“As financial aid loans are capped and student grant money is cut from the federal budget, the gap between what college costs and what students can afford to pay has grown too wide,” Dr. Zabel said. “We’re doing everything we can think of to keep Friends University affordable so that students who want the person-to-person attention that a small college offers but with the excellence one expects from a university in a great city, like Wichita, with all of its internship and career exploration opportunities, can choose just that.”
Integral to the plan is the University’s commitment to recruit and enroll the most talented and the brightest of students. As such Friends will continue to offer more than $8 million dollars in scholarships as well as to engage students with on-campus employment opportunities, a cost which in fiscal year 2015 alone totaled more than $700,000 in wages and includes the University’s federal work study allowance.
The tuition announcement comes in the same week that Friends University announced a two-year summer school pilot program that expands upon existing summer study abroad courses which are offered at a reduced tuition for undergraduate students.
“Federal Financial Aid is often exhausted during the academic year, leaving few resources for continued summer studies,” explains Interim Vice President of Academic Affairs Heidi Hoskinson. “We’ve priced our summer courses competitively – about $100 dollars per credit hour – so that graduating high school seniors, or rising juniors, who want to get a jump on earning college credits in the summer can do so.”
Hoskinson adds that summer courses are also ideally suited for Friends students who are following a three-year plan of study, for community members or for students home from out-of-state schools who want to pick up some college credits.
“At the end of the day, it’s all about access and affordability,” Dr. Zabel said. “By offering a college experience that is attainable, fiscally responsible and geared toward future employment, Friends University is demonstrating its commitment to providing a quality education that prepares students to be contributing members of society on a global level.”
Friends University offers high-quality undergraduate and graduate academic programs for traditional students and working adults. Rooted both in the liberal arts tradition and the Christian tradition, students learn inside and outside the classroom. Friends University is a regional university with national programs and an international presence.