After Lottery Change, Lyon College Freezes Tuition, Fees for Next Year

The Lyon College Board of Trustees said Friday that it has frozen tuition and fees for the 2013-14 academic year in response to changes in to the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery. 

The Batesville college said it took "this unusual action" because it wants to keep Lyon "affordable and accessible to students and their families." 

"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," Donald Weatherman, the college's president, said in a news release.

"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."

Lyon said that when the lottery scholarship took effect three and a half years ago, most schools in Arkansas raised tuition to match the new funds. This year, the Arkansas Legislature voted to lower the amount available to incoming students.

The Lyon announcement came the same day that Gov. Mike Beebe signed the scholarship changes into law. Under the bill Beebe signed Friday, the program will now have a tiered structure of scholarships for students -- starting at $2,000 for a freshman at four year-colleges. It will increase by $1,000 each year, capping out at $5,000 for seniors.

Two year-college students who are enrolled full-time will receive a $2,000 scholarship each year.

The law affects new scholarship recipients who begin college this fall.

"The last few years have been very difficult for many families seeking higher education," David Heringer, Lyon's vice president for administration, said. "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 said higher education "must be sensitive to students and families' needs." He said Lyon was particuarly concerned about cost because nearly half its student body qualifies for low-income Pell Grants, and 70 percent come from Arkansas. More than 95 percent of Lyon students receive some form of financial assistance.

"These are students and families potentially taking a double-hit from recent changes to the Arkansas Challenge Scholarship and rising tuition," Heringer said. "But we’re doing what we can to help families."

The Lyon board's action means no increase in the cost of attendance, including tuition, room, board and fees for the following school year. 

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 about 6 percent, Lyon said.

Lyon said its 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.