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Franklin Pierce trustees freeze tuition for 2012-13

By MEGHAN PIERCE
Union Leader Correspondent

March 14. 2012 2:28AM



RINDGE - In an effort to remain attractive to college students in a down economy, Franklin Pierce University announced a tuition freeze Monday. The board of trustees approved the freeze, which means tuition will remain at $28,250 for the 2012-13 academic year.

'At a time when colleges and universities around New Hampshire and across the country are announcing tuition increases, Franklin Pierce University continues its efforts to make college affordable and accessible to our students,' said FPU President James F. Birge in a news release Monday. 'Our tuition increase for last year was the lowest of all four-year private and public colleges in the state - just 2 percent - and we did not increase tuition at all the previous year.'

The university has been working to keep tuition down over the past couple of years, said Randell Kennedy, a member of the board of trustees.

'In past three years tuition has only gone up by 2 percent, which is pretty much unprecedented at any institution,' he said.

The university has also eliminated all course fees, as well as the campus parking fee for this coming fall.

'Eliminating course and parking fees will offset modest increases' in room and board fees, Kennedy said. The room rate is going up $400 for the whole year and the unlimited meal rate is going up by $200 for the year.

According to the university website, approximately 1,300 undergraduate students attend the university in Rindge.

Kennedy said despite the poor economy, enrollment is strong for this coming fall partly because of good national press about the college recently as well as a stronger online and social networking presence, Kennedy said. 'The University is marketing itself a little bit more affectively in these very uncertain economic times.'

The university has also seen unprecedented attendance at FPU enrollment events on campus as well as across the country. The university has particularly strong communications, anthropology and psychology programs with renowned professors, he said, which is drawing students.

Birge and other FPU officials have also been listening very closely to not only what parents and students are saying nationally, but with what the parents and students are saying on campus, he said.

'Some of the changes they decided to make are a direct result of feedback from parents and students who are looking to pursue an education that is very deeply rooted in the liberal arts, that's what Franklin Pierce is,' Kennedy said, while at the same time parents and students want to gain real world knowledge in the classroom setting that would be relevant to a career outside of academia, 'directly tying in student classroom experiences with career aspirations.'

Kennedy added that many parents are finding that private colleges can provide better education at almost the same cost of public colleges since fewer state and federal grant dollars are given to students at already subsidized public colleges.

Franklin Pierce is the first New Hampshire private college to announce a tuition freeze this year, but the move appears to be part of a growing national trend, said Tony Pals, director of communications at the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.

The university is one of 16 nationwide to freeze tuition so far this year, he said.

According to Pals, Burlington College in Vermont is freezing tuition at its current level for fall 2012 for current and incoming full-time students, and said it would not increase tuition for four years. Burlington is also discounting tuition for the summer 2012 semester by 25 percent.

'Since the beginning of economic downturn, a growing number of private colleges have frozen tuition in order to address growing consumer concerns about college costs. FPU is at least the 16th private college to freeze tuition for 2012-13 at 2011-12 levels. … And we expect to see more announcements this spring,' he said.

The redoubled focus on affordability has resulted in inflation-adjusted net tuition at private colleges actually dropping by 4.1 percent in the past five years, he said.

'Tuition freezes are part of a bigger affordability trend among private colleges. Since the economic downturn, we've seen a growing number of private colleges freeze tuition, cut tuition, introduce three-year degree programs, offer four-year graduation guarantees, hold tuition increases to their lowest levels in decades, significantly boost student aid budgets and make their policies more generous, or take other steps,' Pals said. 'More than ever, students and parents are focused on affordability and value. A bold step like freezing tuition sends a clear message to consumers that an institution is committed to staying affordable and offering the best value possible.'

Franklin Pierce plans to continue to offer 'generous financial aid packages,' the press release said, and has dedicated $18 million in university-based scholarships and grants for next year.

'This pledge far outpaces the federal and state funding for which our students qualify,' said Birge.

The Franklin Pierce tuition freeze comes at a time of major growth at the university. A 9,000-square-foot state-of-the-art academic and athletic training space, the Dr. Arthur and Martha Pappas Health Science and Athletic Training Center, is scheduled to be completed this summer and allows for the new Health Science major. Dining hall renovations are also planned to be completed this summer and wireless technology is to be installed in all sophomore residence halls. And, in an answer to students asking for more sports, a sprint football team, men's and women's track-and-field teams, and a varsity women's ice hockey team are to be formed this fall.


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