St. John Fisher cancels tuition increase in wake of pandemic economy

fishersciencesbldgSt. John Fisher College will turn back a planned tuition increase next school year as a way to help mitigate the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on students and their families. 

“We made this decision as we make all of our decisions — considering what is best for our students and families and our continued commitment to maintaining the affordability of a Fisher education,” said Fisher President Gerard J. Rooney in an announcement Thursday morning.  “We hope that this action will assist our families in a positive way in an otherwise uncertain time.”

Tuition and fees had been scheduled to increase nearly 3 percent. With the increase canceled, full-time residential students at the undergraduate level will save nearly $1,500, while full-time commuters will save $1,200. Graduate students will experience a similar savings. 

Like other colleges, Fisher also announced it will teach its summer courses online. Those classes begin next month. 

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UR lowers cost of nursing degree by cutting tuition

generic-medical-photoThe University of Rochester School of Nursing is cutting the cost of tuition so nurses can more easily comply with new state legislation requiring a bachelor’s degree in nursing within 10 years of getting a nursing license.

The RN to BS completion program announced Friday cuts tuition rates by 18 percent, dropping a fee of $1,456 per credit hour to $1,200 per credit hour.  Paired with other regular discounts for local nurses, the rates can go substantially lower.

“We feel that it’s imperative to make a commitment to ensuring that our nursing workforce has realistic and open access to programs that help deliver better patient outcomes, prepares nurses to meet the demands of an increasingly complex health care environment, and provides hard-working nurses with the crucial foundation they need to pursue additional education to advance their career,” said Dean Kathy H. Rideout.

The program begins with the coming semester.  The “BS in 10” legislation was passed in December 2017 and does not apply to currently licensed RNs. Many nurses enter the field with a license they obtain after they complete a diploma program or associate’s degree in nursing.

According to UR, additional education has been shown in studies to result in higher skills and competence in the nurse and better patient care. It can also provide a career boost.

“This is not about nurses going back to school, it’s about moving the profession forward through transformative education,” said Lydia D. Rotondo, associate dean for education and student affairs at the UR School of Nursing.

UR already offers a 50 percent discount in tuition for nursing students living and working within an 18 county region around Rochester. Nurses at institutions affiliated with UR may get a 55 percent discount. And nurses working at UR are eligible for an up to 95 percent tuition waiver, bringing the cost as low as $60 a credit hour.

The announcement came a day after New York University announced it will make its medical school tuition-free, aiming to allow doctors to go into a variety of specialties rather than just the ones that guarantee fastest repayment of college loans, as well as to attract a wider variety of students.

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Roberts Wesleyan adds incentive to graduate on time

Starting in the fall, Roberts Wesleyan College will guarantee students can complete a bachelor’s degree in four years – an accomplishment that more than half of college students fail to do – or additional courses to finish the degree will be free.

The program is called the Four-Year Promise. Roberts also announced its Roberts Opportunity Grant program, providing up to $8,000 a year to the 20 percent of students who don’t receive academic-based aid.

“We wholeheartedly believe students are worth investing in,” said Deana L. Porterfield, president of Roberts Wesleyan College in North Chili. “The new Four-Year Promise, …combined with the Roberts Opportunity Grant, will help our students save money….  We are committed to providing the resources, education and mentors our students need to start the next chapter of their life.”

The Four-Year Promise, for which entering freshmen will qualify in the fall, will require students to attend counseling sessions each semester with their academic advisers, enroll full-time, maintain good grades and meet requirements of their majors. If they’re not able to complete their major requirements to graduate on time, they’ll be allowed to continue for another semester or two at no cost.

While doing those things alone would seem to be enough to guarantee graduation, a college official said the program really emphasizes that Roberts advises its students well, too.

Students on the campus of Roberts Wesleyan College.
Students on the campus of Roberts Wesleyan College.

“Not every course is offered every semester, so making sure we do the right sequencing, making sure students are planning and doing the right advising model,” said Kimberley Wiedefeld, vice president for enrollment management at Roberts. “We’re going to get it right by you.”

Part of advising students will be to warn them of the consequences of their actions, she said, such as taking just 12 credits a semester instead of 16, or dropping a class because it’s difficult. “This road map helps students understand the ramifications of those decisions,” Wiedefeld said.

Students may participate in the Four-Year Promise even after changing majors, depending on the majors and the timing of the switch, she said.

Roberts made the announcement just before also extending its application deadline to Dec. 1 for priority admission.

College officials estimate graduating on time from Roberts will save a student up to $300,000 in the long run, between saved tuition, avoidance of additional loans and interest, reduced earnings while spending extra years in college and even retirement savings.

“By being out of the job force for one additional year, the cost to your earnings over time is pretty significant,” Wiedefeld said.

The full price to attend Roberts next school year and live on campus will be $42,000, but Wiedefeld noted that fewer than 2 percent of students pay the full price.

While many colleges across the country offer various “promise” programs – more than 200 by one national survey, it seems most provide financial support as an incentive to begin attending college. Few directly support graduating from college. Eligibility for these other promise programs depends on income, graduating from urban high schools or living in a certain geographic area, such as with New York’s Excelsior scholarships.

Though the Roberts Opportunity Grant does compete somewhat with Excelsior, which provides free state school tuition to New York families earning under a certain amount, it was conceived before the state scholarship program was announced, and it’s not limited to New York residents.

“They don’t have to be from New York State and they don’t have to stay in New York,” Wiedefeld said of Roberts students.

“We know that we need for families to understand the value to choose independent colleges. What does a family get for choosing to come to Roberts? They’ll graduate in four years.  They’re prepared academically in their discipline, and they’re prepared for their career,” she said.

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