Matthew Miller, 27, of Austinburg, left, and Ken Skotniski, 26 of Leroy Township, help each other with a problem in a chemistry class at Lake Erie College, March 20, 2014. Lake Erie College offers several scholarship options to keep tuition reasonable for students.
As students look toward higher education, colleges and universities across the country are looking for ways to balance affordability with high-quality education.
Cuyahoga Community College has introduced a tuition guarantee initiative that will go into effect for the 2014 fall semester. The guarantee, which was approved by the Tri-C trustees in February, will lock in the initial tuition rate for incoming first-time students for up to three consecutive years of full-time study, according to a news release from the college.
One of the main reasons Tri-C is offering students a guaranteed tuition price is to motivate them to stay full time and efficiently work towards completing a degree.
“It’s really trying to encourage students to work towards completion and offer a window of time for students to complete a degree in a timely fashion,” said Sandy Robinson, vice president of learning and engagement at Tri-C.
A contract must be signed by the students and each one must comply with certain guidelines such as a minimum number of credit hours and continuous enrollment, in order to be eligible and remain in the tuition guarantee program, according to the news release
Tri-C’s trustees just approved a tuition increase of $3.33 per credit hour for the 2014 fall semester, bringing the new cost to $104.54 per credit hour, still the lowest in Northeast Ohio.
Local colleges and universities in Northeast Ohio also are working to make higher education affordable in several different ways.
Lake Erie College, in Painesville, offers several merit and athletic scholarships to keep tuition affordable for students.
“In the past we have tried tuition freezes, but instead we offer a pretty reasonable tuition,” said Michael Victor, president of Lake Erie College. “We like to give worthy students scholarships and offer a reasonable top line tuition.”
Victor said tuition guarantees are just ways to get students in the door, but those incentives don’t last.
“I think the people are looking for fit, major and financial packaging, and in some cases a private school can be more reasonable,” he said. “Private does not always equal expensive.”
Along with lower private school tuition, $13,481 per semester for a full-time undergraduate student, Victor said the school has other ways to attract students from all over the country.
“We like to have niche majors that are difficult to get into and attracts people to come here,” he said.
Kent State University-Geauga Campus also offers scholarships to students to make college more reasonable.
“This current school year there was a 1.5-percent tuition increase over the previous years, but all the revenue generation from the increase was put towards scholarships,” said Tom Hoiles, director of enrollment management and student services at the school. “That opened more of an opportunity to give that back to the student.”
The regional Kent campus in Burton costs $5,288 a year for full-time students, and does not offer a tuition freeze or guarantee.
Other schools in the area, like Ursuline College in Pepper Pike, are looking at ways to help students save money by offering accelerated majors and local community college partnerships.
Carolyn Noll Sorg, director of admission at Ursuline College, said her college offers a dual admission program with Tri-C which allows Tri-C students to take Ursuline classes at the Tri-C rate and access to complete their last two years of their bachelor’s degree. Ursuline also has two programs at Lakeland Community College’s Holden University Center — a bachelor’s degree in Humanities and a master’s degree in Nursing.
“We’re also offering three-year degree programs and accelerated bachelors/masters bridge programs in certain fields to get students a quicker return on their investment,” she said.
The college’s tuition is $25,530 for a full-time student and it does not offer a tuition guarantee.
“I applaud the schools that are thinking outside of the box and offering innovative solutions to affordability challenges,” Sorg said of schools that offer tuition guarantees.
Tracy Green, vice president for strategic and institutional development at Lorain County Community College in Elyria, said current tuition and fees are $118.34 per credit hour.
“We are committed to the success of our students by keeping college affordable,” Green said. “Our tuition rates are the second lowest in the state. And reducing the cost required to complete a degree is one way to improve their chances for success.
“(LCCC) does not currently have a tuition guarantee, but it is an option we are considering,” Green said, adding a blanket tuition policy further keeps costs affordable.
The blanket tuition policy allows students to take up to 18 credit hours for the price of 13 credit hours, Green said.