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Annual tuition jumps to $17,900

Aug. 23, 2004

Finance official predicts attendance cost will keep rising

By AMANDA HICKS, copy editor

Rising tuition rates have hit Baylor students again this year. According to Baylor's admissions Web site, flat-rate tuition is $17,900, up 6.9 percent from last year.


Source: Institutional Research & Testing reports

Dr. Reagan Ramsower, interim vice president for finance and administration, said tuition will continue to rise, but Baylor is working to limit the increase.

"We must be very good stewards, and we must recognize that it is a financial burden to students," Ramsower said. "But there are only so many ways to bring money into a university."

Ramsower said Baylor can increase revenue through endowments, raising tuition and growing the size of the student body.

To combat overestimates in enrollment figures last fall, departmental budgets were reduced 25 percent in October and another 25 percent in February.

David Brooks, former vice president for finance and administration, said approximately 80 percent of Baylor's revenues are driven by tuition and fees, so any difference between estimated and actual enrollment affects the budget. Brooks said this year's budget relies on more conservative enrollment estimates.

"We believe we'll have a nice, positive surprise in terms of freshmen and transfer students," Brooks said. "In terms of retention, you don't know until you get there, but we have conservative estimates for that as well."

Marilyn Crone, vice president for human resources and enrollment management, said the 2004-05 budget is based on 2,650 freshmen and 425 transfer students.

Flat rate rationale

Baylor switched to a flat-rate tuition structure in 2001. Under the plan, tuition is charged per semester rather than per hour.

Dr. Kent Gilbreath, economics professor, said the idea behind a more expensive, flat-rate tuition structure was that students could take as many hours as they need to graduate faster, addressing the problem in American universities of the growing tendency to stay in school longer.

"Instead, higher tuition has caused students to have to work more," Gilbreath said. "The time they spend on their work does not enable them to take more hours and still perform well academically. Students attempt to work and take high numbers of hours, their academic performance suffers, and, quite often, they wind up dropping classes to have manageable workloads."

New scholarship options

To combat worries about future tuition hikes, entering freshmen can choose the Guaranteed Tuition Option. Under this plan, students establish the same tuition rate for four years. While guaranteed tuition initially costs more than normal tuition, years later, normal tuition rates may rise higher than the guaranteed rate.

Cliff Neel, assistant vice president and director of scholarships and student financial aid, said scholarship opportunities for freshmen and transfer students have significantly increased this year.

"Both the President's and Provost's Scholarships, which are both based on class rank and test scores, have increased substantially," Neel said. "We've also added the Founders' Scholarship, which applies to students with lower SAT or ACT scores."

Three new Achievement Scholarships have been added as well. Amounts range from $1,000 to $3,000 per semester depending on SAT and ACT scores.

"One big difference is that the Achievement Scholarships are stackable," Neel said. "That means you can apply them on top of the other scholarships."

Neel said a large portion of need-based scholarships are funded by tuition, and the others are funded by both tuition and Baylor's endowment fund.

Students who are not incoming freshmen or transfer students will continue to receive the scholarship rates that were in place when they entered.

More tuition payment options are available as well. Credit card companies Students now can charge their tuition on Discover and Mastercard with a 2.85 percent convenience charge.

Increased recruiting efforts

In response to the release of last fall's unexpectedly low enrollment figures, Brooks said Baylor's initiative to recruit more heavily has been historically strong.

"We have gotten faculty much more involved in recruiting students," Brooks said. "So if someone has indicated an engineering major, an engineering professor might call them to talk about what makes Baylor different from, say, A&M."

Personalized phone calls have helped faculty members understand what factors go into students' college choices.

"I know more about the thoughts of prospective students from my hours of talking to them on the telephone," Ramsower said. "Baylor has a well-known name, and I think that, plus the campus environment and our focus on students, will make a big impact."

New residence halls and facilities may entice students to choose Baylor as well.

"Completion of those buildings is certainly a plus," Ramsower said. "If a prospective student comes to campus, they're much more likely to enroll here because we do have a beautiful campus. And seeing so many of the facilities when they are here increases the likelihood that they'll become involved."

Visiting the campus has become easier for prospective students. Fall, Winter and Spring Premiere events, which previously included a $10 registration fee, are now free.

Brooks said the key to increasing enrollment is making students excited about coming to college.

"Students tend to be more likely to come to a university once they consider themselves part of that community," Brooks said. "When someone puts a deposit down, we give them an e-mail address, we've sent them e-mails, given them a bumper sticker and tried to get them involved."