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N.C. Private University Lowers Tuition To Compete

RALEIGH, N.C. — A small private college in Raleigh is turning against the tide of steadily rising tuition costs by lowering its price next year to attract students from middle-class families.

Students were notified by e-mail this week that trustee at William Peace University voted to cut tuition by nearly 8 percent to $23,700 beginning next year, The News & Observer  reported Wednesday ( Room charges will remain flat at $6,186, and food charges will rise $120 to $2,814.

It’s the latest big shift for the traditional women’s college that educates about 725 students. The university this year changed its name from Peace College and decided to start admitting men next fall. Though it was established in 1857, the institution did not become a four-year college until 1997, when it began awarding bachelor’s degrees.

William Peace president Debra Townsley said colleges have to become more cost effective to attract families hurt by the economy.

“We know that in private education, we have lost the middle-income student,” she said.

The school’s tuition decrease comes as most universities are raising tuition. Public universities plan to raise next year’s tuition to cope with state budget cuts. Tuition and fees climbed 8.3 percent this fall at the nation’s four-year public universities and 4.5 percent at private universities, the College Board reported last month.

But a few are going against the grain.

The University of the South, in Sewanee, Tenn., lowered tuition by 10 percent this year. The University of Charleston in West Virginia will cut tuition by 22 percent next fall to deal with an enrollment drop.

“This is a topic that wouldn’t have been on the table four years ago,” Townsley said. “Presidents are talking about this.”

Caroline Mansfield, a first-year student from Cary, said she and her parents were delighted to learn that her education costs might decline. At first, she worried that her financial aid package would be affected, but she has since learned that the decrease means she may not have to pay anything next year.

“I am jumping-up-and-down excited,” Mansfield said. “That’s a great Christmas present.”

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