By Dani Palmer
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. — ANDERSON — During an era when many institutions of higher education annually hike tuition prices, Anderson’s Purdue University College of Technology is offering up something rarer: a tuition freeze.
It’s one of two Purdue branches with no tuition increase this year — the other is at the Subaru of Indiana Automotive Training Center in Lafayette.
Anderson Director Corey Sharp said Purdue branches co-located with Indiana University are following IU’s lead in tuition increases.
What makes Anderson’s Purdue extension unique is that it shares a building with a private institution, Anderson University. And with the tuition freeze and employers such as GTI and Nestle (both nearby in the Flagship Enterprise Park vicinity) seeking applicants who have the necessary job skills, Sharp said, now is the time to enroll.
With an average starting salary of $47,000 for graduates of the Purdue extension in Anderson and a cost of $27,960 over 120 credit hours, the return investment is well worth the price, he added.
“I think college costs play a much bigger factor in those (college) decisions,” he said.
Chad Clark, an organization leadership and supervision and industrial technology major, said he’s happy with his decision to attend Purdue because more technology and manufacturing jobs are coming back to Anderson — he’s currently interning with Echo Automotive at the Flagship Enterprise Center — and “pockets are not bled dry.”
That tuition freeze keeps him from having to worry about how many and what classes he should take in the fall.
Like the majority of Purdue’s students, Clark is receiving financial aid, but “every little bit counts,” he said, as the saved money can go toward items like gas or food.
With student loan debt outstripping credit card debt nationwide, officials say they know there’s a need to keep prices as low as possible. But for universities like Ball State and AU, simply put, the rise in tuition stems from the need to cover operating costs as prices, such as energy rates, continue to rise.
Because a private education costs more than a public education, AU Vice President for Student Affairs Brent Baker said officials are aware of family struggles to pay for higher education.
“Education is just terribly important,” he said. “And an affordable education is something we’re striving for.”
This fall, students at the private university will see a tuition increase of 2.8 percent, Baker said. That brings the yearly cost to $26,120 for up to 18 credit hours per semester. He added, though, that the debt students at AU accumulate is not an outrageous amount as many seem to assume.
In 2010, the average debt of an AU student was $32,700, according to the university. At Ball State University, it was $24,124, according to the Project on Student Debt.
While Ball State wants to provide a high quality education, Bernie Hannon, associate vice president for business affairs, said officials also want to keep the cost affordable.
“Striking a balance is always the hardest part,” he added.
At BSU, 87 percent of students receive some sort of financial aid in the form of grants, scholarships and loans.
Its 2 percent tuition increase is the lowest the university has had since 1976 and means about $90 more per semester, bringing BSU’s price tag to $9,160 per year for up to 18 credit hours per semester.
Hannon noted that the increase is still the lowest among Ball State’s Indiana peers, such as Indiana University.
Even the less costly Ivy Tech Community College is increasing tuition statewide by more than 8 percent to help close the community college network’s $68 million budget deficit.
That increase will raise the cost of a three-hour class by $15 in the fall and by $60 in the spring of 2015. Ivy Tech currently charges $111 per credit hour.
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