Westminster attracting students with tuition incentive
Wednesday, May 13, 2009 10:19 p.m. MDT
By Wendy Leonard
If choosing a college comes down to money concerns, Westminster College hopes to make it an easier choice by matching tuition costs of the University of Utah.
The private Salt Lake institution is trying to lure transfer students with the Transfer Scholar Incentive Award, which will allow qualified students to attend Westminster for the same cost as attending the most expensive in-state public school, offering applicants up to $17,000 in gift aid, which could come in addition to other merit-based scholarships and grant money.
"We're reacting to the economic situation and the way things are right now," said Louis Levy, director of undergraduate admissions. He said many students who opt for the community college route when they start their higher education do so because of financial circumstances.
"We know it's a difficult time out there for a lot of people," he said. "We want them to continue their education here and we're willing to assist them in any way."
According to U.S. News & World Report, the 2008-09 tuition and fees at the U. run $18,500 (including a 9.5 percent tuition increase for 2009-2010) a year. The average cost at Westminster College is $35,500 annually. The difference between the two is reflected in Westminster's $17,000 aid package.
The funds come from various sources including the Westminster Transfer Presidential Scholarship, institutional grant funds, federal Pell and various other grants.
E-mails and phone calls are being made to any and all students who have expressed interest in the liberal arts college, as well as students referred by Salt Lake Community College faculty and advisers. However, only students with a cumulative transfer GPA of 3.5 are being considered, as Westminster has selective enrollment and a desire for "quality students" Levy said.
"We're really just looking for a good match," he said. "If we're a good match for a student then we do everything we can to make it affordable for them."
Westminster boasts smaller class sizes, private school prestige and accomplished faculty. The school can accommodate nearly 500 incoming freshman and approximately 200 transfer students, but there isn't a cap on enrollment. So far, admission numbers this year are holding well for the school, which expected much lower application rates in this economic downturn.
Compared with last year, Levy predicts increased enrollment due to the number of applications and initial tuition deposits already received.
The incentive, he said, targets good students, which is "self-serving" as it draws quality students to the college. Ninety-five percent of the student body pays education-related costs with some sort of merit-based scholarship, which results in an average of $18,533 being paid out, while 91 percent of incoming freshman accept an average of $10,637 in financial aid. The incentive would be in addition to the aid already offered.
"We probably could have gotten along without doing this but we just feel as if it is a response and we're the type of college that traditionally is concerned about social issues," Levy said.