Lyon board freezes tuition, fees for next year

The Lyon College Board of Trustees has frozen tuition and fees for the 2013-14 academic year in response to changes in the Arkansas lottery scholarship. It took this unusual action because it recognizes the need to keep Lyon affordable and accessible to students and their families, college officials said.

“The combined effect of the down economy, the uncertainty of the future, as well as the reduction in state scholarships has the families of our students and prospective students concerned,” President Donald Weatherman explained. “Lyon College does not want to add to their worries by placing an additional burden on them. That is the main reason the Board of Trustees decided to freeze tuition, room and board, and all fees at this year’s rate for the 2013-2014 fiscal year.”

Three and a half years ago, when the lottery scholarship took effect, most schools in Arkansas raised their tuition to match the new funds. Now, the Arkansas Legislature is lowering the amount available to incoming students. To help those students and their families access a premier liberal arts education, Lyon College has responded by freezing tuition and fees.

“The last few years have been very difficult for many families seeking higher education,” said David Heringer, vice president for administration. “Unemployment rates are high, prices on everything from food to gas have gone up, incomes have gone down, the Arkansas Challenge (lottery) Scholarship has been adjusted down, and the federal budget — which determines Pell Grants and student loan interest rates — is uncertain.

Heringer continued: “Given the current climate in higher education and obstacles facing families seeking a chance for their children, higher education must be sensitive to students and families’ needs. Lyon especially considers cost because of the composition of our student body. Nearly 50 percent qualify for low-income Pell Grants and 70 percent come from Arkansas. These are students and families potentially taking a double-hit from recent changes to the Arkansas Challenge Scholarship and rising tuition. But we’re doing what we can to help families.”

Heringer said the board’s action means “absolutely zero increase in cost of attendance — tuition, room, board, or fees — for the following school year. We are committed to keeping higher education affordable for students, their families, and our community.”

According to The College Board, the average 2012-13 tuition increase was 4.2 percent at private colleges, and 4.8 percent at public universities. The 10-year historical rate of increase is approximately 6 percent.

Lyon College has long been recognized as one of higher education’s best bargains among private, selective liberal arts colleges. More than 95 percent of Lyon students receive some form of financial assistance.

Lyon’s tuition for 2012-13 is $23,370; room and board is $7,560; and the student activity fee is $224, making a total comprehensive fee of $31,154. With the board’s action, the same fees will apply for 2013-14.

Last fall, Lyon made the list of 26 national liberal arts colleges whose students owed the least amount of money upon graduation, according to U.S. News & World Report.

U.S. News compiled a list of schools whose Class of 2011 graduated with the heaviest and lightest debt loads. The data include loans taken out by students from their colleges, from private financial institutions, and from federal, state, and local governments.

According to U.S. News, 44 percent of Lyon graduates were debt free, while 56 percent owed money when they graduated. The average amount of debt for Lyon’s 2011 graduates was $17,092, U.S. News said. Lyon is the only Arkansas college or university on the “Least Debt” list.