Lyon College freezes tuition for 2013-14 school year

By Emily Van Zandt Originally Published March 10, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated March 8, 2013 at 1:21 p.m.
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Terrell Tebbetts, right, Lyon College Martha Heasley Cox Chair in American Literature, speaks to a journalism class at Lyon. The school recently announced that it would freeze tuition for the 2013-14 school year.

When the board of trustees at Lyon College began to hear from students that money was getting tight, the board decided to focus on one thing: keeping students on campus.

Last week, the board of trustees announced it had frozen tuition and fees for the 2013-14 school year.

“We talked about it all this year, sort of

agonizing over the fact that while we can always use more funding, we are a campus that has close ties to our students, and they were struggling,” said Donald Weatherman, college president.

Weatherman said he had a number of students tell him and the board that a tuition increase would put extra pressure on them during an already hard economic time.

When the tuition freeze was announced, the board said, the move was in response to recent changes in the Arkansas Lottery Scholarship program.

“The last few years have been very difficult for many families seeking higher education,” David Heringer, vice president for administration, said in a press release. “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.”

Earlier this month, Gov. Mike Beebe signed into law Act 234, which restructured the lottery scholarship program. The move came after more students than expected received the scholarship, and lottery revenue decreased, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported. The restructuring means first-time recipients of the scholarship will receive $14,000 during four years at four-year Arkansas universities. Students who were awarded the scholarships in the 2010-11 school year received $20,000 over a four-year period.

Once the board heard about those cuts, Weatherman said, it acted quickly.

“We were never considering more than a 2

percent tuition increase,” Weatherman said. “But the board said, ‘Look, we need to help these people out.’”

The scholarship-lottery restructuring is a particular concern for Lyon College, which gets the majority of its students from in-state.

“More than 70 percent of our students come from Arkansas,” Weatherman said. “Our mission is ‘Tend to Arkansas.’”

The tuition freeze means that tuition, room, board and any fees will remain the same for the next school year. For 2012-13, Lyon’s tuition was $23,370, room and board was $7,560, and the student activity fee was $224.

Weatherman said the board will consider a tuition increase again next year.

The tuition freeze could mean budget cuts for the college as a result of the decrease in revenue.

“We have spent the fall semester doing an extensive looking at the budget to see if there are things we don’t need and things we don’t need to be doing,” Weatherman said. “With the board action, we’re working up a bunch of scenarios.”

Weatherman said the potential revenue decrease is a tradeoff the board is willing to take.

“Our final analysis is that the best thing we can do for our college is keep the students on our campus,” he said.

Staff writer Emily Van Zandt can be reached at (501) 399-3688 or evanzandt@arkansasonline.com.

Staff Writer Emily Van Zandt can be reached at 501-399-3688 or emily@syncweekly.com.

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