East Stroudsburg University is the first of the state-owned colleges in Pennsylvania to freeze tuition for incoming four-year students, starting this fall.
And it’s one of the few – if not the only – colleges, public or private, in the state to currently do so.
It’s all part of the battle to attract students and to make education affordable for them.
“Costs for higher education have been going up,” said David Bousquet, vice president of enrollment management at ESU. “We feel this would be a good way to help focus people on the goal and take out some of the anxiety in what’s the cost going to be next year.”
The Warrior Promise – named after ESU’s athletic teams’ nickname – guarantees the same tuition for all four-year students pursuing an undergraduate degree over eight consecutive semesters who enroll as freshmen this fall. Existing ESU students can get their tuition frozen, as well, as can transfers to the university.
The tuition rate, though, could increase if a student drops out for a semester or more.
Bousquet said it is too early to tell if the program will affect enrollment.
“The impression from parents and students has been positive,” he said.
FIRST IN THE SYSTEM
ESU is the only university in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education to offer the same fixed-rate tuition for all four years, said Kenn Marshall, spokesperson for PSSHE.
The Harrisburg-based organization oversees 14 publicly owned Pennsylvania universities, including Kutztown, and will set the tuition rate for the next academic year in July.
The system’s board of governors wanted to give universities flexibility in tuition levels in approving ESU’s plan in January, said Marshall, who noted that other colleges around the country also freeze tuition for enrolled students.
Bousquet said other colleges and universities offer some variation of a fixed-rate tuition guarantee but he was not aware of any other institution offering one in Pennsylvania.
EIGHT CONSECUTIVE SEMESTERS
The program is a guaranteed, fixed four-year tuition rate that begins with the first term of an undergraduate student’s enrollment and provides a guaranteed tuition rate for four academic years consisting of eight consecutive semesters, Bousquet said.
Under the Warrior Promise, the tuition that incoming freshmen pay for 2018-19 will be the same rate as the year they graduate in 2021-22.
At ESU, tuition is $3,746 per semester for in-state undergraduates taking 12-18 credits and $9,365 per semester for out-of-state undergraduate students earning 12-18 credits.
Students need 120 credits to graduate in four years, about 15 credits per semester.
For students who leave for a semester and return, ESU would charge them tuition at the rate of the class that came in immediately behind them, Bousquet said.
A student who does not re-enroll for two or more semesters is choosing not to avail him or herself of the eight-consecutive semester guarantee, Bousquet said. Consequently, that student no longer gets the benefit of a tuition freeze.
This spring, ESU students can sign up to have their tuition rate remain flat for the remainder of their four years. The university will automatically enroll students who are transferring to ESU into the fixed-rate tuition program.
SOME FEES FROZEN, TOO
The fixed-rate tuition guarantee does not apply to room and board costs.
However, it applies to two fees associated with tuition, which are for technology and for instructional resources.
ESU would include these two fees in the fixed-rate program and would not increase them for all four years.
SHINES A LIGHT ON ESU
While not considered a recruitment program, the Warrior Promise could prompt families who are concerned with college costs to look more closely at what ESU offers, Bousquet said.
He described the Warrior Promise as an effort to address those concerns and help students focus on the goal of graduating in four years.
“[Parents] appreciate that it helps them budget,” he said.
The program is likely to stay beyond the next four years.
“I fully expect that the institution will continue it,” Bousquet said. “Eventually, I think all of our degree-seeking undergraduates would be pursuing the Warrior Promise.”