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After Early Success, University Expands Effort to Reduce Costs, Encourage Real-World Learning

With incoming class and retention rate surpassing expectations, year two of Affordable Excellence extends tuition freeze/guarantee, focuses on excellence

BRISTOL, R.I. – One year after launching the Affordable Excellence initiative to confront the most pressing challenges facing higher education – increasing costs, rising debt and the job-readiness of graduates – Roger Williams University President Donald J. Farish said today that early stages of the strategy have exceeded expectations, and he pledged to redouble the University’s efforts in the coming year.

“Through Affordable Excellence, we are committed to keeping tuition costs down and to creating ‘job-ready’ graduates who benefit from exposure to both liberal arts and professional studies, augmented by project-based learning reflective of the professional world,” Dr. Farish said during his annual State of the University address to faculty and staff. “Ultimately, this means stronger, more competitive graduates who will succeed both professionally and as responsible citizens of the world.”

After marketing Affordable Excellence, along with its tuition freeze and four-year tuition guarantee, to prospective students during the 2012-13 academic year, the University welcomed an incoming class this fall that not only exceeded its target, but is one of the academically strongest in years – despite the fact that many colleges across the country are struggling to meet enrollment goals.

In addition, RWU witnessed the highest freshman-to-sophomore retention rate in the school’s history, with a one-year increase from 78 percent to 84 percent – the revenue obtained from that sizable jump in retention actually exceeded what the University would have generated through a 3 percent tuition increase.

As indicated both anecdotally and through formal market research, students and their families pointed to the University’s focus on affordability measures and academic excellence as primary factors in the decision to attend (or remain at) Roger Williams: “Students – and particularly, parents – like this idea very much,” Dr. Farish said. “We are declaring ourselves partners with our students and parents, in ensuring an education that is both affordable and excellent.”

After commending the University’s faculty and staff for their roles in the early success of the Affordable Excellence initiative, Dr. Farish shared details on the University’s pledge to expand upon its affordability measures:

First, for all undergraduate day students, Roger Williams University will freeze tuition once again for the 2014-15 academic year. This means that students entering next fall will pay $29,976 – the third year in a row that tuition remains the same.

In addition, the University will continue the four-year tuition guarantee for students arriving in the 2014-15 academic year, meaning no year-to-year cost increases for those who remain continuously enrolled. All students enrolled now are already benefiting from the tuition guarantee, which over four years, saves students between $9,267 and $15,756 compared with schools that start at the same price but raise tuition by 3 to 5 percent per year (the national average).

Finally, in recognition of the importance that affordability plays in the college selection process, Dr. Farish committed to freezing tuition for as long as it is financially feasible for the University – keeping any potential increases (if required) low – and to publishing the following year’s tuition rate as early as possible.

In his remarks, Dr. Farish highlighted a handful of the many actions that Roger Williams has taken to expand upon the quality of education offered to students – graduating more students with major/minor combinations that blend the liberal arts and professions; creating project-based learning opportunities that engage students with nonprofits and government entities through the Community Partnerships Center; increasing the number of Living/Learning Communities available to first-year students; and the recent partnership with Samsung that will create a more collaborative learning environment while reducing technology costs for students.

Through the Affordable Excellence initiative, Dr. Farish said Roger Williams will continue to play a lead role in confronting the very real concerns that students and families have about access, affordability, debt and career preparation.

“Too many American families do not have the resources necessary to pay for a high-quality educational experience for their children,” he said. “At Roger Williams, we will continue to do all in our power to increase educational quality while reducing the costs borne by students and families – our objective is to share costs with our students, while offering genuine value and educating them for well-paying jobs.”

More information on the Affordable Excellence initiative is available via the Roger Williams University website. Or read weekly commentary from Dr. Farish published via his President’s Blog.