Pennsylvania Private College Promises Tuition-free Fifth Year

HUNTINGDON, Pa.

A private liberal-arts college is embarking on an unusual promotion to recruit prospective students and dissuade them from choosing public universities buy four years and get the fifth, if needed, tuition-free.

Juniata College’s four-year guarantee will apply to all incoming freshmen who enroll in the fall of 2008, said John S. Hille, executive vice president for advancement and marketing.

The promotion’s message is intended specifically for potential applicants who live in a 12-county region of central Pennsylvania, Hille said.

In marketing materials for the campaign, officials say the average four-year cost of attending Juniata is more than $60,000, when financial aid is factored in.

They compare it to more than $120,000 for six years at Penn State University a public school whose flagship campus is about 20 miles north of Juniata citing a study by a statewide lobbying group for independent colleges that found students at public colleges are likely to take longer to graduate.

Although Juniata’s enrollment has grown over the years and currently hovers around 1,400, it is receiving fewer applications from central Pennsylvania students, Hille said. “The price tag for a private school appears to be so high that parents are automatically ruling it out,” Hille said.

Penn State spokeswoman Lisa Powers questioned the accuracy of Juniata’s comparison, noting that Penn State students take 4 1/2 years on average to graduate. “Under no legitimate comparison would Penn State be more expensive,” Powers said.

Juniata’s four-year graduation rate averages 92 percent, and administrators expect relatively few students to take advantage of a tuition-free fifth year, Hille said. They would still have to pay room and board, he said.



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