4 universities are recording cost increases


Four of the state’s six largest public universities reported increases in the average net price, a measure of the college’s affordability for freshmen taking full-time courses.

The average net price is an estimate of the real cost of going to college. Expenses such as housing and common types of grants are taken into account.

For the four largest universities in the state, the average net price increases were between 3% and 8%, a percentage higher than the rate of increase in tuition and fees at schools over the same period year-over-year.

While rising costs outside of tuition and fees may contribute to increases in the average net price, one college researcher said that enrolling students’ wealth is also important.

[AVERAGE NET PRICE: Interactive graphic not showing up above? Click here to see it » arkansasonline.com/628netprice/]

“As student incomes go down, they’ll have more students who get more help and get lower prices. So it’s really, really hard to draw any conclusion from that number,” said Sandy Baum, a non-resident senior fellow with the Urban Institute.

Data released on CollegeNavigator.gov this month shows that the average net price at the University of Central Arkansas increased $ 1,252 year over year over the 2019-20 period – the most recent year with data available.

Universities that reported an annual increase in their average net price of less than $ 1,000 included Arkansas State University; Arkansas Tech University; and the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.

The University of Arkansas at Fort Smith and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock reported a decrease in their average net price over the 2019-20 period.

Average net price is only calculated for students who receive grants or scholarships from government agencies or the school they attend.

The “data is not perfect,” said Baum.

However, the average net price is prominently represented in the search engine Google.com.

Entering the name of a university leads to average net price information. Google.com also shows data on the Average Net Price by Income Level calculated for students receiving some type of Government Aid under Title IV. In addition to federal grants, this also includes certain loans and study funds.

Arkansas public universities described a mix of factors that resulted in changes in their average net price, with most also describing efforts to increase student scholarship aid to keep college affordable.

Fredricka Sharkey, a spokeswoman for the University of Central Arkansas, cited a decline in the number of students receiving Pell scholarships as a factor in the institution’s rising average net price, which rose from $ 14,796 last year to $ 16,048 in 2019-20. Dollar has risen.

Pell Scholarships are a form of government grant for students with exceptional needs.

Sharkey did not provide data on the number of Pell Fellows on the Conway campus, other than the total decreased from 2017-18 to 2019-20.

The latest federal data available shows that 903 full-time first-time students received Pell scholarships in 2018-19, or 45% of that class of freshmen at UCA.

Donor contributions have resulted in “a steady increase in recent years” in the university’s private grants, Sharkey said in an email, with the UCA Foundation’s grants totaling $ 1.48 million in 2019-20 Last year rose to about $ 1.53 million.

“At the university, it is of the utmost importance for all students to bear the cost of attending college,” Sharkey said in a statement.

The UCA’s average net price for the lowest income students – students and families with incomes of $ 30,000 or less – rose from $ 13,549 last year to $ 14,136 in 2019-20.

The average net price at Arkansas State University rose $ 994 to $ 14,275 in the 2019-20 school year.

Bill Smith, an ASU spokesman, cited rising room and board costs when asked about the change.

The estimated cost of room and board at ASU – excluding the allowance – increased about 11 percent over two years, increasing from $ 8,740 two years earlier for on-campus accommodation to $ 9,672 for 2019-20, according to federal data. This doubled the percentage increase in tuition and fees, which rose about 5% over the same period to $ 8,900 from $ 8,478, also according to federal data.

“To address this, we have initiated a residential grant this fall to support students in greatest need,” Smith said in an email.

Data on students and families reporting incomes of $ 30,000 or less showed that ASU’s average net price increased from $ 10,948 a year ago to $ 12,120 over the 2019-20 period.

The University of Arkansas, Fayetteville average net price increased $ 496 year-over-year to $ 16,759 for the 2019-20 school year.

Suzanne McCray, UA’s vice-province of enrollment and dean of admissions, said in an email that increases in housing costs and fees for the 2019-20 academic year, as well as some other cost increases, likely explained the increase in the average net price.

For students in the $ 30,000 and under-income category, the UA 2019-20 average net price declined from $ 12,094 last year to $ 12,003, according to federal data.

To help the university’s low-income students, McCray, UA is considering “the need for students to be equally qualified for scholarships.” Additional $ 5 million support for scholarships specifically for students in Arkansas – about half of UA newcomers came from outside of the state in recent years – should be apparent in the 2020-21 federal data, McCray said. Data for 2020-21 are not yet available.

Arkansas Tech University’s average net price rose $ 740 year over year to $ 1,277 in 2019-20.

Sam Strasner, a spokesman for Arkansas Tech, noted that the university’s average net price declined from 2017-18 through 2019-20.

“The 3.4 percent decrease in the average net price at ATU over these three years, including the increase in tuition fees in 2018-19 and coupled with an increase in graduation rates and degrees awarded over the same period, is evidence that Arkansas Tech is operating efficiently and achieving its ultimate goal of academic achievement, “Strasner said in an email.

Arkansas Tech’s average net price to its low-income students – college students and families with incomes of $ 30,000 or less – rose from $ 9,842 last year to $ 10,455 in 2019-20.

Strasner reiterated that the 2019-20 average net price for the lowest-income group fell compared to two years earlier.

“Arkansas Tech University is beginning to introduce on-demand scholarships to increase its support for lower-income students,” added Strasner. “In addition, ATU invests funds from its educational and general funds in employment opportunities for ATU students in need of financial assistance.”

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock posted a net average price decline of $ 1,516 year-over-year to $ 12,235 in 2019-20.

Jonathan Coleman, UALR director of financial aid and scholarships, said the university awarded $ 7.1 million in scholarships for the 2019-20 academic year and is adjusting its scholarships to focus more on high school grade point average .

“As long as a student has achieved a super score of 20 on the ACT, they are entitled to our merit scholarships. The amount of their award is determined by their high school GPA. The higher your GPA, the higher your award will be, ”said Coleman.

At the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith, the average net price decreased by $ 823 to $ 9,209 in 2019-20.

Rachel Putman, a university spokeswoman, said in an email that a new policy, which went into effect in the fall of 2019, requires students to have a payment plan prior to the start of a semester that in effect means early completion of applications Federal funding and other grants will require grants, Putman said.

“This helps students be aware of all financial opportunities and supports, and leaves significantly less money on the table that they may not have known in the past that they qualified,” Putman said.

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