At a time when many colleges are only now considering tuition resets, the Wilson College Board of Trustees voted this past weekend to hold the line on tuition for an eighth consecutive year. On the recommendation of President Barbara K. Mistick, the board agreed to hold tuition at the current rate of $23,745 for undergraduates for the next academic year, 2018-19.
Wilson’s actions are unique in today’s higher education landscape. The College Board reports that nationally, private colleges and universities have increased tuition an average of 13 percent over the past five years, while public institutions have raised tuition an average of nine percent over the same period. Locally, PASSHE (Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education) universities have raised tuition 13 percent since the 2013-14 academic year.
Under the decision, next fall’s tuition for the majority of Wilson’s students—including traditional undergraduates and those in the Adult Degree and Teacher Intern programs—will remain at this year’s rates. Graduate degree students in nursing will see their tuition increase $165 per three-credit course and accounting graduate students will see it decrease by $180 per course.
Along with the tuition freeze, the college approved a modest 2 percent increase in room (the first increase in four years) and 2 percent in board. Board members also approved a plan to replace technology and activities fees with a new comprehensive fee that will also include graduation and administrative fees. The comprehensive fee was set at $850.
The net effect of the trustees’ action means that Wilson’s full-time residential students will pay a total of $36,249 for tuition, fees and room and board next year, an increase of just 1.2 percent.
“We know that cost is a key factor for today’s families when it comes to choosing a college,” said Mistick. “A significant percentage of Wilson’s students are the first in their families to attend college. We want to make sure as many deserving students as possible can afford a Wilson education.”
Wilson, which is ranked by U.S. News & World Report as fifth in the “best value” category among northern regional colleges for 2018, continues to lead in college affordability and value. After freezing tuition for three straight years, the college reduced tuition for 2014-15 by $5,000 as part of the Wilson Today plan, which also included the creation of an innovative student debt buyback program.
With that tuition decrease, the college became one of fewer than 30 colleges and universities in the nation to cut tuition between 2002 and 2014, according to a Sept. 25 article in Inside Higher Education. The article, “The Tuition-Reset Strategy,” adds that between Sept. 5 and 15 this year, at least eight schools announced tuition reductions for fall 2018, calling it significant, yet “a tiny percentage of the roughly 1,200 degree-granting private nonprofit institutions operating across the country …”
Wilson’s efforts to keep tuition down are paying off for students. An Institute for College Access and Success study on the average debt level from student loans for the Class of 2016 shows the debt level for Wilson graduates is $4,146 below the state average of $35,759. U.S. News & World Report lists the percent of Wilson students receiving need-based grants at 87 percent.
Prospective students and their families are responding to Wilson’s “value plan”—tuition affordability and the loan buyback program—according to the college’s admissions office, a fact borne out by the increasing
number of enrolled students. This fall, overall enrollment increased by 10.7 percent from fall 2016, to a total of 1,216 students.
Wilson’s enrollment increases continue to buck national enrollment trends. The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center reported a decline of 1.5 percent in higher education enrollment nationally in spring 2017 over the previous year, while showing a slight 0.2 percent decrease at four-year, nonprofit private colleges. In contrast, since 2013 Wilson has seen a 44.6 percent increase in traditional undergraduate enrollment, with an 83.6 percent increase overall.
Approved by the Board of Trustees in January 2013, the Wilson Today plan included a set of forward-looking initiatives to ensure that the college remains a thriving institution well into the future. In addition to the 2014-15 tuition reduction and student loan buyback program, the plan included infrastructure improvements, coeducation, improved marketing and new academic programs. Undergraduate programs introduced at Wilson since the plan was adopted include nursing, animal studies, health sciences and special education, while graduate programs have been added in education, healthcare, business and the arts.
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