Thursday, April 10, 2008

Capitol College freezes tuition

Business tuition cut in half; officials at private institution tout plan to make education affordable

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Ronnie Robinson wasn’t sure if his parents could shell out nearly $20,000 to pay for another year at Capitol College in Laurel. So when the freshman business major heard his tuition would be cut by more than half, he said he could finally stop worrying about taking out loans or even dropping out of school.

‘‘I know my parents will be able to afford it,” said Robinson, 19, a Washington, D.C., resident. ‘‘Before, I just wasn’t sure.”

Officials at Capitol College, an 80-year-old private college specializing in information technology, engineering and business, announced April 4 that undergraduate business students would have their tuition slashed by $10,000. Starting next school year, business majors will pay $9,840 annually.

College President Michael T. Wood also announced that tuition rates would freeze at $18,784 annually for all other students during the 2008-2009 academic year, which starts in August. Wood said the tuition freeze was just part of the school’s attempt to keep college affordable. Since 2000, the college has had a ‘‘tuition lock,” keeping a student’s tuition the same throughout their years at Capitol College, a four-year institution.

‘‘If we’re this low, why not just go all the way,” Wood said, explaining the rationale behind freezing tuition and reducing business students’ tuition.

Capitol College’s regular tuition will now be about $5,000 less than the average private college. The average tuition for a four-year private college during the 2007-2008 school year is $23,712 annually, up 6.3 percent from the previous year, according to the College Board, a national nonprofit organization that tracks trends in higher education. A four-year public institution will run students an average of $6,185 this year, an increase of 6.6 percent from 2006, according to the College Board.

‘‘We’re concerned about ... mom and dad,” Wood said.

College officials said the tuition freeze could be extended to the 2009-2010 school year, but it was too early to tell. Capitol College, which has 300 undergraduates and 450 graduate students and is one of 18 private colleges and universities in Maryland, will lose $250,000 in undergraduate tuition next year because of the cuts, said Megan Campbell, a Capitol spokeswoman.

‘‘That’s a lot of money for a small school like us,” she said.

By slashing the business program tuition, Capitol officials hope to grow the business school. The school’s Management and Information Technology courses were first offered in 1996 and classes in business administration were started in 2004. There are 33 undergraduate students enrolled in the business program this year, a number that has remained steady since the program first came to the Laurel campus, Campbell said.

She said the college would compensate for the tuition cuts by implementing more cost-efficient building and energy operations and filling classrooms that have had vacancies in recent years.

Melody Ford, a junior astronautical engineering student, said the efforts to cap tuition has prevented her from applying for loans that she would struggled to pay back after graduation.

‘‘I know that I am not paying for something that I cannot afford,” said Ford, 21, a Washington, D.C., native who lives near Capitol College’s Laurel campus.

Jeremiah Madej was among a group of Capitol College freshmen chatting about the drastic tuition cuts before Wood’s news conference on campus last week. Madej, 18, from Pasadena, said he couldn’t wait to tell his parents about his tuition cut.

‘‘I’ll actually be able to remove a huge financial debt from my parents,” he said. ‘‘It’s just unbelievable.”

In January, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) announced plans for a tuition freeze for all public universities and colleges in the 2008-2009 school year. O’Malley set aside $15.5 million in his fiscal 2009 budget to offset an anticipated 4 percent tuition rise next year. It would be the third consecutive year tuition rates were frozen in Maryland.

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