February 15, 2013

Thomas College, KVCC to freeze tuition rates for next year

UMS also expected to hold tuition rates pending state funding

By Ben McCanna bmccanna@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

Tuition will remain flat next year for two area colleges, and perhaps more.

At Thomas College and Kennebec Valley Community College and in the University of Maine System, the goal is to freeze tuition rates to improve the affordability of higher learning in Maine. It's a move that mirrors a larger trend, according to a national survey.

Earlier this week, Thomas College announced its tuition rate would remain flat for the second consecutive year at $22,160. Room, board and fees are increasing slightly, which will bring the total cost to $32,694, according to college President Laurie Lachance. The total price increase is 1 percent.

Lachance said the college's board didn't make the decision lightly.

"This gives us a real challenge," she said. "How are we going to make this all work?"

Students were the reason behind the decision, and they might also be the solution, she said.

"The board felt very strongly that a tuition increase really hits your captive audience -- sophomores, juniors and seniors, who are already there and used to paying a certain fee," she said. "The vast majority (of students) work one, two or three jobs. If we can avoid costs, we felt we owed that to them."

The school's solution to flat revenue and rising operating costs is to boost enrollment, she said. The college is finalizing several plans to accomplish that goal, although they haven't been announced yet.

"It's an exciting time for Thomas College," she said.

At Kennebec Valley Community College in Fairfield, tuition has also been frozen at $86 per credit hour for the next academic year, according to Jonathan Humphrey, marketing specialist at the school.

In the University of Maine System, the decision to freeze tuition is more complicated, said Public Relations Manager Peggy Markson. In September, the system's board of trustees unanimously proposed a tuition freeze for the 2013-14 school year, but the decision ultimately hinges on funding through the state's biennial budget, which the Legislature won't finalize for several months, Markson said.

For the current school year, in-state tuition is $6,510 at the Augusta campus, $8,352 at Farmington and $8,370 at Orono.

The Maine schools are not alone in their effort to control tuition costs, according to an October report from the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.

"In recent years, an unprecedented number of private institutions have cut tuition, frozen tuition, announced fixed-tuition guarantee or introduced three-year degree programs," the report states.

Among 445 private colleges surveyed, tuition and fees rose a scant 3.9 percent, the lowest rate in four decades, according to the report.

Other area colleges haven't posted next year's tuition rates yet. At Colby College, the total fee to for the 2012-13 academic year is $55,700, an increase of 3.5 percent from the previous year's tuition of $53,800.

This year at Unity College, the cost of tuition is $23,000, or $32,814 including room, board and fees.

Ben McCanna -- 861-9239
bmccanna@centralmaine.com

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