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US Department of Education: UL a bargain – Affordability boosting enrollment

Ken Stickney, Daily Advertiser, July 20, 2013

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I University of Louisiana at Lafayette graduates smile during commencement exercises. A U.S. Department of Education study says undergraduates have a reason to grin, too: UL is the most affordable university in Louisiana. / Advertiser file photo

University of Louisiana at Lafayette students are getting a bargain with their education, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

The Education Department’s College Affordability and Transparency list says UL is the most affordable university in the state, with the lowest net price to attend.

The average net price was determined by subtracting the average amount of grants and scholarships — including those from local, state and federal sources — from the total cost of attendance, which includes tuition and fees, books and supplies, and weighted average for room, board and other expenses. UL said on its website that the average net cost of attendance was $5,233 in the 2011-12 academic year, less than half the national average of $10,863.

Eighty-five percent of ULL students garnered scholarships or grants that year.

“You can get a very quality education at a more affordable price here,” said Dr. DeWayne Bowie, vice president for enrollment management at UL.

UL’s affordability has played a role in boosting enrollment, Bowie said, as the campus has been enrolling large freshman classes with ever-increasing credentials. He said the incoming class, projected at 2,600, has an average 22.9 ACT score and a 3.33 high school GPA.

“I looks like a record-setting class,” he said.

Even well-qualified students such as those are concerned about affordability, Bowie said, because of the increasing costs of higher education. The high cost of loans and the potential for huge debt are causing students around the country to think twice about affordability. Congress is weighing options for keeping the costs of student loans from growing.

Average costs at UL climbed from 2011-12 to 2012-13: tuition moved from $4,426 to $5,374; on-campus room and board rose 64.6 percent from $5,080 to $8,362. But Bowie said UL expects to continue to remain high in the rankings for affordability, as it has for three years.

Mikaela Dennis, a freshman from LaPlace, said Friday that cost was a factor in her decision to attend UL. She looked at LSU and Southeastern Louisiana, she said, but opted for UL, which was “less expensive than my Catholic high school.”

Scholarship money helped keep her cost down, she said.

Hugh Bartlett of New Orleans, who expects to graduate in December, said affordability was not the driving factor in his selection of UL. He wanted to go farther away from home than LSU, where many of his high school classmates enrolled, and he said he “fell in love with the UL campus.”

But Bartlett said he later learned that UL was “much cheaper” than other universities, which he said has been beneficial.

Crystal Lopez, a junior from Lafayette, said she lives at home, which reduces the cost. . She said low tuition and fees help her afford college.

“Financially, this is better for me,” she said.

Bowie said that’s a conclusion many applicants reach, including out-of-state students and international students, who find that attending UL and living on campus is cheaper than commuting from home to campuses in their own states.