Karina Barriga Albring 

News Editor


emma contic/ graphics editor

New Hampshire public colleges and universities are currently awaiting for the House and the Senate to approve Governor Maggie Hassan’s budget proposal to restore state appropriation and freeze in-state tuition. Some private and public colleges throughout the country have already chosen to establish a guaranteed fixed-tuition. These programs intend to allow students to have a more realistic overview of how much they will be spending throughout their four years in college.

Christopher Jonas is a high school senior from Jaffrey, N.H. He said his teacher told him he should have already made a choice about what college he will attend next fall; however, Jonas said economics play a major role when deciding whether he will be able to attend college.

“I have applied to a few colleges and got accepted, but don’t really know if I will be able to pay for them,” Jonas stated. For him, one of the biggest concerns is the tuition will increase, “to a point that it would be impossible for me or my family to finance college,” Jonas said.

Increases in tuition have been a tendency in the past few years. According to a piece in CNN Money, states have cut the amount of money they are giving to colleges by a total of $15.2 billion from 2007 to 2012. The cut represents 17.4 percent of state support. The article also stated that the average public college got a tax subsidy of $6,600 per student in 2012, whereas in 2007, the subsidy was $9,300.

Tuition rates have increased by around five percent over the past four years in Keene State College, while according to The Washington Post, tuition at U.S. universities increased, on average, by eight percent from 2011 to 2012. At KSC, in-state tuition was $16,564 in 2009. In-state tuition is currently set at $21,783.

“Tuition cost is one the issues that worries me the most. I have to work while I go to school to be able to cover college expenses. It would make it a lot easier if we could somehow know how much we will need spend until graduation,” KSC freshman Kyla Jones said.

Some colleges have opted to establish tuition ‘locks’ that ensure students will not face tuition increases while in college. A fixed-tuition plan requires a college to lock tuition rates for four years. Each class has a tuition rate, and that increases for each successive incoming class. According to an article in The Washington Post, fixed-tuition plans work “toward eliminating the unpredictability by creatively shouldering the burden of risk management.”

Burlington College in Vermont is one institution that chose to provide students with a fixed-tuition plan for fall 2012. “The college administration and Board of Trustees entered into tuition discussions this year committed to reducing our students’ tuition costs and some of their financial uncertainties,” stated an announcement in the college’s website.

Another case is The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. The GWU website indicated that “students will pay this fixed tuition rate for up to a total of 10 consecutive semesters as long as the student maintains full-time continuous enrollment.”

Kettering University in Michigan also implemented this measure last fall. “For current undergraduate students, the fixed rate applies for full-time study in each remaining term to graduation. For new students enrolling in 2012-13, the fixed rate will apply for up to 10 successive academic terms of full-time study,” an article Kettering University’s website stated. All three examples are privately financed institutions.

Keene State College authorities explained some assets that make fixed-tuition plans hard to implement in public colleges.

Vice President for Finance and Planning Karen House indicated that it is very difficult for public colleges to calculate what their expenses will be in the next years because institutions don’t know the state appropriation will be. Therefore, establishing a fixed-tuition plan for four years will put the institution’s budget at risk. Interim President and former KSC Vice President for Finance and Planning Jay Kahn said, “there is no guarantee in what the state appropriation is going to be. If that was constant, you might be able to guarantee tuition, but you can’t guarantee what the subsidy is from the state every year.”

House said, “Because you don’t know for sure what your future costs are going to be, the situation encourages you to estimate high, so you don’t find yourself short. The price increases might actually be more than they otherwise would be because you are looking at four years.”

According to Kahn, “A number of states have experimented with guaranteed tuition plans and many them have moved away from those experiments. The reason is because for every next class the amount of increase is four times what it would otherwise be.”

Kahn indicated it seems unfair for the younger class to face a rather drastic increase while older classer have lower rates. “If your classes are four different class groups but only one is going to be paying the increases, that one has to pay the increases for all classes. The increase ends up being 10 percent for that incoming class, rather than 2.5 percent a year, as it would normally be.”

Kahn explained that rather than looking at smaller increases in an annual basis, over the entire student body, colleges end up putting all the increase on one class. “That just doesn’t seem fair,” Kahn said.

House also explained a fixed-tuition plan might create confusion among applying high school students. House said the increasing rates from one incoming class to the next one could be shocking. Houses stated, “As a high school student you may say ‘Tuition went from $19,000 to $22,000 in one year, what are they going to do after that?’ It is hard competitively because other institutions are recruiting students because they offer a lower price point. It is very hard to explain to students and family. Because it is not a standard structure, it is very hard to implement and be successful.”

However, there are cases in which families would rather know more about tuition plans prior to their children’s enrollment in college. Elaine Lovell, from Weare, N.H., has put three kids through college, none of whom attend a college that offered fixed-tuition plans. She stated she would like more colleges to implement these measures. “It [fixed-tuition plans] is the first step to helping American families. With that [fixed-tuition plans] you know throughout all four years that the cost of education will remain the same and that you will have the ability to pay for the education prior to enrolling in school,” Lovell said.

Planning the family budget is crucial for Lovell. Her youngest daughter started at Keene State College in fall of 2012 . Lovell stated that she would like to see a fixed tuition plan, “Then I would already know, and then I could budget accordingly and not have any surprises.”

However, Kahn said, “One of the college’s top concerns is to make sure that the students are completely aware of the cost of their education and that they fully understand the terms before they enroll or apply for a loan.”

Lovell added, “I know that the cost [of college] has gone up at least five percent but I also know that my paycheck has not gone up five percent.”

“Increases in tuition are something that concern a lot. I don’t want to enroll in college and then have to drop out or transfer because I can’t afford school expenses any more,” Jonas concluded.


Karina Barriga Albring can be contacted at kbarriga@keene-equinox.com 

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