Fixed Rates Are Latest In College Tuition Plans

"Freshmen at Northland College, a small Wisconsin liberal arts school known for its environmental focus, will pay no more than $30,450 in tuition next year. They'll pay the same the following year. And the year after that," the Associated Press reports. "The college on the shore of Lake Superior is joining a growing number of schools promising fixed-rate tuition — a guarantee that most students will pay a single rate for the length of their college careers. The programs at schools like George Washington University, University of Kansas and Columbia College in Missouri aim to help families budget for college without worrying about big price jumps. They also give recruiters something to tout on the road to try to ease the sticker shock. Tuition and fees at four-year public colleges rose 27 percent in the past five years, while those at four-year private schools went up 14 percent, according to the College Board. About 320 colleges and universities offered tuition guarantees during the 2012-13 school year, according to an analysis of U.S. Education Department data done by the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators. The schools represent about 6.7 percent of the nation's nearly 4,800 institutions where students receive federal financial aid.  Many fixed-rate plans are coupled with a commitment to hold financial aid steady so students have a firm cost estimate, but they are not discounts. At Kansas, students starting as freshmen pay more than standard tuition in their first two years to offset lower rates in the last two. Other schools try to estimate expenses and inflation and set rates that cover costs when averaged over four years. Transfer students generally pay tuition for the year they enter; at Kansas, they pay standard tuition."

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