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Witt once again freezes tuition

Recruiting boost hoped for; problems with “net tuition” continue to lurk.

Last fall, the Wittenberg University Board of Directors froze tuition. This fall, the freshman class increased by 44 students.

The university is hoping for the same kind of result from the board’s decision last week to hold the line again in 2014-15.

The second consecutive freeze leaves the tuition and fees at $39,030 a year, the same as in the 2012-13.

Room and board are expected to be bumped up two percent to $9,932, which will edge total costs to $48,962 a year, up almost $1,200 from this year’s $47,766.

President Laurie A. Joyner said the freeze is meant “to respond to the tough economic conditions” in a way that makes Wittenberg “accessible and affordable” to as many as possible.

Like other colleges and universities doing the same, “we are hoping for bump in the number of incoming students,” she said.

The move also will underscore the university’s need for cost containment.

Although this year’s larger freshman class was good news because it allowed Wittenberg to make its budget, it came with a cost. Wittenberg increased to more than $35 million the amount of scholarship money it provided to attract the students, 95 percent of whom receive some kind of aid.

The higher scholarship outlays, called “discounting,” reduced the net amount the university earns from each student. Because net tuition is the lion’s share (more than 86 percent) of university income, increasing that net is critical for its financial health.

Joyner said that the 2014-15 freeze should help the university at least hold the line on net tuition.

But after a year in which it made $4.5 million in cuts, the university also will feel pressure to contain costs further to recoup some of the scholarship outlays.

Although some universities are experimenting with rolling back tuition to attract students, Joyner said the results are “much more mixed than one might believe.”

Joyner said Wittenberg would be “much more inclined” to offer a guarantee that tuition would not increase more than a certain amount over a four-year period.

But she said tuition adjustment “is going to be an ongoing agenda” as Wittenberg tries get itself on a firmer financial footing for the long run.

In a press release, Randy Green, Wittenberg’s executive director of financial aid, spoke to another parental concern, saying Wittenberg is “continuing to ensure that students graduate in four years compared to the five or six years on average it takes at some flagship public institutions.”

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