Few area colleges bucking trend of increasing tuition

Posted: Sunday, August
17, 2014 7:00 am
At least three area colleges are bucking the trend of tuition increases with one college reducing tuition for new students and two others holding the line, according to a
Herald-Mail Media survey of 12 colleges and universities in the Tri-State area.

Wilson College, a private liberal-arts college in Chambersburg, Pa., has cut tuition for new students by 17 percent, while Kaplan University-Hagerstown and the University of Charleston’s campus in Martinsburg, W.Va., have held tuition steady for the upcoming school year.

The national trend has been for tuition to increase, though the 2.9 percent increase for in-state tuition and fees at public four-year colleges and universities for the 2013 – 2014 school year was the smallest percentage increase in more than 30 years, according to the College Board’s 2013 Trends in College Pricing report. The College Board has not yet issued its report for this year.

The 12 institutions informally surveyed by Herald-Mail Media included two-year and four-year public and private colleges and universities.

Those institutions were Hagerstown Community College, Kaplan University’s Hagerstown campus, Penn State Mont Alto, Shepherd University, Shippensburg University, the University of Charleston’s Martinsburg campus, Wilson College, and the five universities that provide undergraduate course s at the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown. Those five institutions are Coppin State University, Frostburg State University, Salisbury University, Towson University, and the University of Maryland University College.

Some institutions included fees in their costs and others did not, while some listed tuition costs by credit hour or per semester or year.

Most affordable

Based on a basic comparison of tuition for the equivalent of a full-time student attending year-round, Hagerstown Community College is the least-expensive option.

For a student taking 12 credit hours a semester, over two semesters, HCC will cost from $2,640 a year in tuition for a Washington County resident, $4,128 a year for a Maryland resident outside of Washington County, and $5,424 a year for an out-of-state resident.

The community college along the east side of Hagerstown increased tuition by 2.4 percent for out-of-county Maryland residents to 2.8 percent for Washington County residents. Tuition for out-of-state students increased 2.7 percent.

Despite the tuition increase, HCC is still a “bargain,” spokeswoman Beth Kirkpatrick said.

“When you look at what we offer and we’re fully accredited, so everything transfers, (we’re) very much on par with university levels,” Kirkpatrick said.

HCC is getting the same amount of funding from the county, $8,965,010, as it did last fiscal year, while receiving $8,640,301 from the state — a 7.24 percent increase in funding, according to HCC budget figures.

HCC officials decided on modest tuition increases to help cover increasing expenses such as health care and other personnel costs, according to Kirkpatrick and budget figures.

The community college’s enrollment has continued to increase, with 7,101 students in 2013, compared with 7,024 students in 2012 and 6,850 students in 2011, according to figures Kirkpatrick provided.

Reducing tuition

Wilson College, a private college, is the most expensive option of the 12 institutions, based on tuition for a full-time student.

However, the college has cut tuition by $5,000 or 17.4 percent, to $23,745 a year, for new students, college officials said.

Wilson has frozen tuition for returning students at $28,745 for the third straight year, but is guaranteeing returning students that they won’t have to pay more $23,745 for tuition, said Mary Ann Naso, vice president for enrollment.

That guarantee is possible because of scholarships and other financial aid, said Linda Brittain, dean of financial aid. This past year, Wilson’s students received about $12.4 million in financial aid.

If a student brings in “outside scholarship money,” Wilson reduces the loan portion of financial aid, but does not reduce any portion of Wilson’s financial aid package, Brittain said.

“And that doesn’t happen at very many colleges,” she said.

While Wilson College is trying to boost enrollment — in part by expanding its coeducational program to include male residential students this school year, President Barbara Mistick said the decision to cut tuition and hold the line for returning students is “a commitment to value and affordability.”

Wilson’s primary market is middle-income families and their incomes are declining, so college officials want to make Wilson more affordable for more students, Mistick said.

Approximately 46 percent of Wilson’s students are first-generation college students, she said.

The financial aid process can be “incredibly complex. It’s complex for us, (who) are in it every day and know it,” Mistick said.

The college also endorsed Mistick’s idea for a debt buyback program, starting with this year’s incoming freshmen.

To be eligible, students must remain and complete their four-year education at Wilson, as well as perform community service, officials said. The maximum buyback is $10,000 toward a student’s federal Stafford Loan, and the amount depends on the student’s final grade-point average, according to a news release about the program.

The debt buyback program also encourages students to complete their degree in four years so they will not have to pay tuition for a fifth year, Mistick said.

While Wilson has not yet released enrollment figure s for this fall, college officials said recently that applications had doubled.

Mistick said the college was on track to enroll its largest class in the past 40 years.

Wilson had 662 students last fall for its undergraduate, graduate and continuing education programs, with 308 of those students being traditional undergrad students, Wilson spokeswoman Cathy Mentzer said.

In the past, Wilson officials have noted the need to increase enrollment for the college’s fiscal stability.

Asked if Wilson was in danger of closing its doors, Mistick said it was not, but that college officials are making moves, like going fully coed, to boost enrollment to help sustain the college in the future.

Holding the line

Tuition didn’t change this year for Kaplan University—Hagerstown or the University of Charleston, which opened a Martinsburg campus in January 2013.

Kaplan University—Hagerstown is holding tuition steady for the second straight year.

The per-credit cost at Kaplan remains $371 for its undergraduate programs, with the loan exception being the new bachelor of science in nursing program that starts this month and costs $315 per credit hour, according to Business Development Manager Heather Guessford.

If a student were attending full-time, or basically year-round by taking 12 credits each of the four 10-week terms in a year, the annual tuition would be $17,808 for many undergraduate programs, Guessford said.

Chris Motz, president of Kaplan’s Maryland campuses, said college officials held tuition costs steady “because we’re mindful college costs are … really getting out of control” and college officials are “sensitive to reducing student debt.”

Kaplan is a private university, so it doesn’t receive county and state subsidies, Motz said. Kaplan has tried to keep its costs the same in recent years in order to avoid increasing tuition, he said.

The last tuition increase was in 2012, and Kaplan officials already have decided not to increase tuition in 2015, Motz said. Any tuition changes take effect with the change of the calendar year rather than the typical school-year calendar, he said.

Like at other colleges, scholarships help reduce student debt, Motz said.

During the last year and a half, 75 to 80 percent of new students have received some kind of scholarship, Motz said. In addition to having scholarships available for academic achievement, the college has a scholarship for single parents and offers discounts to military personnel, Washington County Public Schools employees, and Meritus Health employees, he said.

The University of Charleston is maintaining the $320-per-credit-hour tuition for undergradstudents who attend classes in Martinsburg, according to an email from college spokeswoman Carrie Stollings.

“As a private institution, we are not impacted by the state funding cuts,” Stollings said.

The University of Charleston is only offering one undergrad course, in addition to graduate courses, this fall in Martinsburg, Stollings said. Those courses, including the undergrad organizational leadership course, will be taught at the National Guard Armory, she said.

The university will no longer be offering classes at the former Mountain State University facilities because of a settlement agreement between Mountain State and former students. The University of Charleston had taken over the defunct Mountain State campus in January 2013, but now Mountain State has to sell its real estate to provide settlement funds, according to a University of Charleston news release.

Increasing tuition

For many state colleges, tuition increases were needed to offset state funding cuts or were the result of a system wide decision.

Shepherd University’s state funding was reduced by 3.75 percent, according to an email from Shepherd spokeswoman Valerie Owens. It was the second straight year for state budget cuts that affected the university in Shepherdstown, W.Va.

The tuition increase for Shippensburg University, like other state colleges and universities, was determined by the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, Shippensburg spokesman Peter Gigliotti said.

The state system’s board members approved a tuition increase that “essentially matches next year’s projected rate of inflation of about 3 percent,” according to a July news release.

For Shippensburg, tuition was increased by 2.9 percent, according to its tuition schedule.

Shippensburg offers discounted rates to out-of-state students who are majors in STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — and to “high-achieving” students. For freshmen, that means scoring at least 1,200 on the SAT or graduating in the top 10 percent of their class, according to Shippensburg’s tuition information. If students qualify, the per-semester out-of-state tuition is $5,968, which is $1,705 cheaper.

Penn State Mont Alto increased some of its tuition rates, including those for freshmen and sophomores, by 1.2 percent.

Mont Alto spokeswoman Debra Collins said the college made an effort to avoid unnecessary expenses and minimize increases to students without making the quality of the programs suffer.

The college is a research institution so it does need to provide research equipment, and other expenses went up such as health care, gas and housing, she said.

While the campus is grateful for the state’s support, college officials “understand it’s hard now,” Collins said.

“Affordability is really important to us, but we still have to provide a high-quality education,” she said.

The University System of Maryland’s board of regents announced in May that, with the exception of Salisbury University, tuition for Maryland residents would not increase by more than 3 percent, according to a university system news release.

The university system has appreciated the state’s support, which included an increase in funding in the mid-2000s that allowed the university system to hold the line on in-state tuition for four years, university system spokesman Mike Lurie said.

When the university system needed to increase revenue to help pay for the increasing costs of running the various institutions, the state provided funding so the tuition increase was 3 percent rather than 5 percent for in-state residents, Lurie said.

Those annual 3-percent tuition increases kicked in for the 2010-2011 academic year, according to Lurie and historical tuition information available at the university system’s website.

Salisbury’s in-state undergraduate tuition increased by 3 percent that first year, but then went up by 6 percent a year as part of a series of rate adjustments “to reach market parity,” according to a university system news release and tuition data.

Lurie said that, historically, Salisbury’s tuition level was considerably lower than other compatible institutions in the university system and the nation.

Betty Crockett, Salisbury University’s vice president for administration and finance, said the tuition jumps aren’t just about market parity.

“According to the Maryland Higher Education Fiscal 2015 Budget Overview, SU is the lowest-funded public institution in total education and general revenues per full time equivalent student, which is essentially the combination of tuition and state appropriations,” Crockett stated in an email.

To provide the “quality it seeks to offer,” including more financial aid, Crockett said the funding difference needed to be made up, to some extent, with tuition increases.

Out-of-state undergrad tuition increases, for the state universities offering courses in downtown Hagerstown, were limited this year to 5 percent, except for Towson whose increase was 1 percent, the university system release states.

Wilson College welcomes first male residential students

Posted: Wednesday, August 20, 2014 10:53 pm | Updated: 10:15 am, Thu Aug 21, 2014.

Posted on Aug 20, 2014 by Roxann Miller

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — Wilson College ushered in a new era Wednesday when the college, founded in 1869 as a school for women, saw its first male residential students arrive.

Making the transition to co-education already has resulted in record enrollment, college officials said.

A total of 148 new students moved in Wednesday and participated in orientation sessions. Of those, 24 were men, college spokeswoman Cathy Mentzer said.

Last fall, the college enrolled 100 new students, Mentzer said.

“We are excited about this. This is the largest class for Wilson in 40 years,” said Brian Speer, the college’s vice president for marketing and communication.

Co-education, new academic programs, infrastructure improvements, and marketing and recruitment are part of the Wilson Today Plan to breathe new life into the college.

“We’re very excited about the direction that the college is going,” Speer said.

As Sam Mensah, 20, of Ghana was touring the campus as part of Wednesday’s orientation, he seemed unfazed by his groundbreaking role as one of the first male students.

“It’s pretty cool,” he said about being one of the first male residential students on campus.

Mensah, who is majoring in business administration and management, said he chose Wilson because of its proximity to his relatives who live in Maryland.

Standing well over 6 feet tall, Keifer Jefferson-Grimes of Florida came to the local college not only for its academics, but to show off his athletic prowess.

Now that the college has a men’s basketball team, coached by Miles Smith, Jefferson-Grimes is hoping for a little court time on Wilson’s NCAA Division III team.

The psychology major said he’s not intimidated by being outnumbered by so many women on Wilson’s campus.

“I’m up for the challenge,” he joked.

New student Sarah Neville, 18, of Mechanicsburg, Pa., is proud to attend Wilson during the college’s new era.

“I think it’s going to bring a new dynamic to the school,” she said. “I’ve always gone to co-ed school, and I think it’s a good change.”

The college has the perfect program for Melissa Queary, 17, of Gettysburg, Pa., who wants to acquire a degree in veterinary medical technology before continuing her education to become a veterinarian.

“I think having an all-girls school is fine, but when you have a co-ed school, it prepares you more for the real world,” she said. “In real life, when you go to work, you work with men and women.”

Albert Bruce, 19, of Doylestown, Pa., is majoring in equine-facilitated therapy with a minor in psychology.

Even if the college had not gone co-ed, Bruce said he would have commuted the 2 1/2 hours from Doylestown because of Wilson’s exceptional equine program.

While it’s exciting to be one of the first two dozen men on campus at Wilson, Bruce said he feels a big responsibility.

“You have standards that you want to set for the other guys coming in (after you),” he said. “There’s always a stereotype for guys on how we treat women, and since it’s the first year, it’s the first chance to show that this is valid.”

Classes begin Monday.

Roxann Miller is a reporter for The Herald-Mail. She can be reached via email at roxann.miller@herald-mail.com.

Franklin County college prepare for freshman

Franklin County colleges prepare for freshmen
Posted: Thursday, August 14, 2014 9:04 pm
CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. —
Franklin County colleges are putting the finishing touches on final summer projects in anticipation of the first day of class for students on Aug. 25.

Wilson College in Chambersburg will welcome a new freshman class Wednesday, marking the first class of co-educational,residential students on the campus that was founded as a women’s college in 1869.

The college has made a number of infrastructure upgrades and other changes that are part of its Wilson Today Plan aimed at the college’s goal of financial sustainability.

“What we’re excited about is (that) we’re going to be enrolling the largest class Wilson has seen in 40 years,” said Brian Speer, vice president for marketing and communications.

In the spring, $2.64 million in renovations were completed to McElwain-Davison Hall, one of the campus’ highest occupancy residence halls. The changes will help with the transition to coed.

The work included new paint,ceiling tiles and flooring in every room and new mattresses.Mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems were replaced, and electrical outlets were added,Speer said.

The lounges, community kitchens and laundry area were updated, and the bathrooms wereupdated to comply with ADA standards.

A multi-million dollar expansion of the college’s library, which began with the demolition of the building’s annex in July, will continue through the fall of next year.

The college plans to spend $12 million to construct a three-story addition that will add 1,300 square feet to the originallibrary, which was built in 1925.

A multi-million dollar expansion of the college’s library, which began with the demolition of the building’s annex in July,will continue through the fall of next year.

The college plans to spend $12 million to construct a three-story addition that will add 1,300 square feet to the original library,which was built in 1925.

Construction on the addition is scheduled to begin in mid-September, with completion slated for the fall of 2015, Speer said.

Upgrades have been made to the athletic facilities to expand and improve locker rooms and bathroom facilities, as well as ensuring ADA compliance.

Penn State Mont Alto has been busy this summer, completing more than $2.6 million in campus upgrades.

“Whenever it is possible, campus operations strives to lighten our own ‘footprint’ and become a more sustainable campus,” according to Ron Swope, director of finance and business for Penn State Mont Alto.

Some of the projects include a new high-tech water chlorination building that provides safe water for the entire campus, a soccer field score board, an audio-visual system in the Multipurpose Activities Center, plus state-of-the -art upgrades to the laboratory classrooms in the Science Technology Building.

That building received the most extensive work of all, said Bradley Kendall, physical plant interim supervisor.

The $1.4 million project includes the renovations of four labs inside the building, new windows, storefront entrance and new roof system, he said. “It just makes for a better learning environment,” Kendall said.

Kendall said this is the first time the building, constructed in 1974, has been renovated.

Other university projects include a new HVAC system in Conklin Hall, which houses the university’s administrative offices, with a cost of $60,000; a new $100,000 ramp entrance for Conklin Hall; exterior door replacement at Wiestling Hall estimated at $100,000; mall area of the campus beautification/sidewalks and lighting for $300,000; remediation building renovation for$128,000; a new scoreboard at the soccer field, $45,000; new sound system in multipurpose activities center for $100,000; spring house renovation for $10,000; new batting cage for $15,000;updates to two labs in the General Studies Building for $62,000, new LED lighting in the parking lot adjacent to Conklin Hall for $12,000;and utility area for sawmill for $169,000.

Undergraduate male students move in at Wilson College, once all-women’s

Written by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | Aug 22, 2014 4:00 AM

(Chambersburg) — A new batch of freshmen is moving into Wilson College in Franklin County, as the start of school nears, and this class is the first of its kind – it has male undergraduate residential students.

About 25 of the 150 students in the class of 2018 at Wilson are men, and of that group, 15 are joining one of the school’s sports teams. It’s also the largest class at the liberal arts school in Chambersburg in more than 40 years.
Incoming students at Wilson College, which now admits both men and women as undergraduate students, participate in an icebreaker at orientation.

Christian Wagner, a freshman from Frederick, Maryland, says looking around the room at freshman orientation, he began to count the number of guys.

“Mmmm, like 5.”

How did that make him feel?

“It’s different than high school. It’s not 50-50, it’s 95-5.”

Zach Asper from Pottsville was recruited to play basketball at Wilson, and says the relatively small class initially got his attention, and then the co-ed switch convinced him to make the jump.

Incoming students and their families take a tour of Wilson’s campus.

“More excitement than nervousness. Be that first class with the males that gets to graduate so that’ll be pretty neat, just to see that.”

The decision to admit male undergrads as residents has met pushback.

A group of vocal alumae argues the school is going against its original charter as a women’s college, and took its case to the state Department of Education in June.

The three-member panel is expected to decide whether Wilson’s decision is legal at some point this fall.

The so-called Wilson College Women say they have a lawyer ready to bring a lawsuit if the school disregards the state’s decision.

Spokesman Brian Speer says the change isn’t stretching its resources.

“Its gonna be one of the those things where I think we’re gonna be able to handle it and learn and adjust on the fly, and make this a comfortable situation for everyone.”

He maintains the school has been thoughtful about the changes.

“The residential experience is gonna be a little bit different. I think the students that are coming in, they expect it, and the students that are returning have really been a part of the planning for it, and so they’ve all embraced it.”

Upperclassmen aren’t due to show up until this weekend, but some were already back as orientation leaders.

Lindsey Sutton, a junior from Greencastle, Pennsylvania, says she’s already had guys in her classes – some were admitted as commuters last year – and she’s excited to see what’s to come…

“It’s a cool change, it’ll be interesting to see how the transition is. How the different dorms decide on different rules and the living situations so I think it’s kinda cool.”

Sutton says she didn’t pick Wilson because it was an all-women’s college at the time, but she knows some people who did.

Speer says the male residents will live in a part of one dorm on campus.

Wilson College opens dorm-room doors for first time to male students

By Kasey Varner | Special to PennLive
on August 20, 2014 at 5:32 PM, updated August 20, 2014 at 7:30 PM

Wilson College students who arrived on campus for move-in day Wednesday were part of a historic day. For the first time in the school’s 145-year history, the formerly all-women’s private liberal arts college in Chambersburg had students moving into co-ed residences.

Wilson, which has had a strong tradition of competitive academics, allowed men to enroll for the first time during the previous academic year.

This year, they are being integrated into the traditionally all-female residence halls.

“While we had more men enroll than I was initially anticipating, we don’t have enough to make an entire floor co-ed because I have to guarantee bathroom equity,” said Sherri Sadowski, Wilson College’s director of residence life.

Otherwise, there doesn’t seem to be much negative reaction from students or their parents, Sadowski said.

Incoming freshman Caroline Willson, 19, had been looking for a school with a strong veterinary program and found a good fit in Wilson College. The demographics, while important, were a secondary consideration.

“I was surprised to find out that it was once an all-girl school, but once I found out that it was changing, I thought that was pretty cool,” Willson said.

Brant Swartz, 17, of Pottsville, said he was drawn to Wilson College for its environmental focus and sustainability efforts – as well as its prelaw affiliation with Vermont Law School.

His mother, Kim Swartz, found the school’s other efforts at financial viability a bit more enticing. Having kept their tuition steady for the past three years, Wilson College actually reduced its tuition costs for the current academic year by $5,000.  Tuition this year at Wilson College is $23,745.

“We hadn’t really heard about the school’s tuition in the past, we were more focused on finding a school that would fit his interests in environmental law,” she said.

All of these changes seem to have a positive impact on the college’s enrollment figures. Preliminary information on the incoming class indicates that it will be the largest since 1970. As of Wednesday, there were 148 freshmen students – 124 women and 24 men.