/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Acknowledging the economic downturn's potential impact on finances for students and families, the Agnes Scott College Board of Trustees has approved the smallest percentage increase in tuition and fees in 35 years.
The overall increase in tuition, mandatory fees and room and board for the 2009-2010 academic year is 2.69 percent, which is approximately half the rate of inflation.
The board also approved a plan to launch several new financial aid initiatives aimed at attracting talented students to the college, including "The Agnes Solution," a program guaranteeing $64,200 in merit aid over four years to students eligible for a Georgia HOPE scholarship.
"Agnes Scott College's newly announced affordability measures powerfully demonstrate private higher education's commitment to staying financially within reach to students and families from all backgrounds during this historic economic downturn," said David L. Warren, president of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities and an Agnes Scott trustee. "I applaud Agnes Scott for taking decisive and innovative steps to help consumers hit hard by the economy."
Traditionally, trustees have approved tuition for the following academic year at their January board meeting, but made the decision earlier this year to give students and parents additional time to plan.
"We realize that some of our students and their families will be struggling in this economy, and we are determined to go the extra mile to keep Agnes Scott affordable," said Agnes Scott President Elizabeth Kiss. "At the same time, we are committed to continuing to provide an outstanding educational experience for our students - small classes with excellent professors and opportunities to pursue research, internships and study abroad. We are not eliminating educational opportunities nor cutting services to students."
Instead, the college is finding new ways to be frugal. "We have delayed some replacement hires and are cutting back on discretionary expenditures, replacing holiday cards with an e-card and canceling the big tent rental for graduation," said Kiss. "In times like these, we need to concentrate on our essentials -- our people, our educational quality and our core values."
Agnes Scott will continue to offer generous financial aid to assist students who have demonstrated need, Kiss emphasized. In addition, the financial aid office will run special workshops designed to assist students in preparing financial aid forms and loan applications for next year.
"Some people still have the misperception that private colleges are only for the wealthy," Kiss said. "In fact, with students from all across the socio-economic spectrum, including one third who receive federal Pell grants for low-income families, Agnes Scott is far more socio-economically diverse than many public universities. We work hard to help families pay for college. And in tough economic times, we work even harder."
"Our generous financial aid policies, combined with the high quality of the education we provide, have made Agnes Scott the top-ranked college in the Southeast -- and number 16 nationally -- in the 'Great Schools, Great Prices' category in the U.S. News & World Report rankings this year," she added.
Agnes Scott's stated tuition covers about half the actual cost of educating a student at the college. The difference between tuition and the college's expenses is funded by income from the endowment and gifts to the college.
The college's budgetary strategies are to maintain balanced budgets, focus on strategic initiatives and aggressively pursue efficiencies and opportunities to "work smart." As a charter signatory of the College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, Agnes Scott takes seriously its efforts to "reduce, reuse, recycle and rethink" the college's daily operations, said Kiss, noting that many of these sustainability initiatives -- from energy retrofits to a printer cartridge recycling program -- save the college money and serve its ongoing commitment to affordability.
"Ultimately," she added, "the heart of our strategy is to help our students stay in college and to persuade more applicants to consider Agnes Scott." The college's new financial aid initiatives are key to that strategy. These include a new $3,000 Agnes Advantage Award to subsidize study abroad, internships or mentored research that will be offered to top students in the college's applicant pool. "The Agnes Solution" will guarantee Georgia students who are eligible for a HOPE scholarship $15,300 per year in merit aid along with a one-time $3,000 Agnes Advantage Award. This $64,200 aid package, combined with state HOPE and TEG grants, will provide up to $83,000 during a student's four years at Agnes Scott.
"These are exciting new programs for talented young women who want the choice of attending an independent liberal arts college," said Dean of Admission Lee Ann Afton. "We've always known the lifelong 'value-added' of attending a school like Agnes Scott. Now, the college is making this opportunity more affordable for students and their families."
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