University freezes tuition

Inflation hasn’t hit 6.5 percent since Jimmy Carter left the Oval Office.

Unless it gets that bad again, University of Charleston students will no longer have to worry that the school will jack up their tuition after they’ve already enrolled, school officials announced.

One hitch: At the same time it starts the new “guaranteed tuition” program, UC is charging students $850 more next semester than it did this semester.

That’s a normal yearly increase for UC, assistant academic dean Karen Merriman said.

“We’re usually about a three percent or so increase,” Merriman said.

Actually, the latest increase is more than four times that much – 13 percent. Three percent of this semester’s $6,600 tuition would be $198.

Students who enter after May 1 will be locked in at the new, $7,450-a-semester rate for their entire four years, as long as they stay full time and don’t take any semesters off.

They can keep that tuition rate even if they stay another four years to get another bachelor’s degree, or if they start working on their master’s degree immediately after their bachelor’s.

Although it’s charging more for tuition, UC is eliminating some fees – $4 per transcript, $50 to $75 for graduation, $275 an hour if a student wants to take more than 18 hours of classes a semester.

UC’s new “learn at your own pace” academic policy spawned the new tuition-and-fee policy, Merriman said. Under the new academic program, students can skip classes or accelerate their schedules if they can demonstrate that they’ve already learned what those classes teach.

“The old system charged based on credit hour, and like some other campuses we had an 18-hour credit limit,” Merriman said. “We decided a flat fee was probably a better way to go.”

Although it will be locked into 4-year-old tuition rates for some students, UC won’t lose money, Merriman said.

“Interestingly enough, if you map it out over about a five-year period of time … the bottom line is, it comes out about the same.”