Hiram to guarantee students' tuition over four years

HIRAM, Ohio (AP) - Hiram College plans to guarantee that students' tuition and fees will not rise during their four years at the private liberal arts institution.

The college is among only a few nationwide to offer such a guarantee, said Interim President Thomas Chema.

"It's really aimed at predictability," he said. "Families will have the opportunity to see what college costs will be in the long haul."

Chema hopes the tuition guarantee, which begins in the fall, will aid Hiram's drive to build enrollment from 900 to at least 1,200 in four years.

He said he expects the pledge to help even more in retaining students who otherwise might drop out because they can't pay unanticipated tuition increases.

Although the rate for next year's freshmen won't be set before January, Chema expects it to be about 7 percent above the $20,440 tuition this year.

Tuition increases at Hiram, located 30 miles southeast of Cleveland, have averaged about 4.5 percent a year.

A rate will be established annually for each successive class, and transfer students will be charged the same amount as others in the same class at Hiram.

The college's room and board account for roughly 20 percent of a student's overall costs and will not be covered by the guarantee.

Maria Paes of New Middleton, whose son Michael is considering Hiram next year, said she likes the idea of knowing upfront how much tuition and fees will cost.

Paes said other colleges should consider a similar guarantee to help families plan for college.

Chema said because the guarantee is good only for four years, it will be an incentive for students to stay on track.

Western Illinois University, a state-assisted institution, has guaranteed tuition, fees and room and board since 1999.

John Maguire, a university spokesman, said the policy was enacted to give families a defined cost for college, to give students added incentive to complete their degrees in a timely manner and to set the university apart from its competitors.

Maguire said officials believe that the cost guarantee has played a role in some students' choice of the Macomb, Ill., university.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)