Seton Hill University Helps Families Keep Tuition Costs Down

College in High School Classes Give Students a Financial Edge
January 09, 2013
Author: Kary L. Coleman
Faith Finoli
Faith Finoli saved her family thousands of dollars by starting her Seton Hill experience before she was a college student. Finoli took Seton Hill-approved courses while still in high school, giving her a head start -- both financially and academically, she said -- over many of her classmates.

“I’m a sophomore, but a junior credit-wise,” Finoli said. “So it definitely helped.”

The College in High School Program is just one way Seton Hill has found to help make the college experience more accessible financially.

The most significant piece to keeping school affordable -- and therefore attainable to all academically qualified students -- is keeping tuition increases as low as possible, said Maryann Dudas, the school’s director of Financial Aid.

“We want students and their families to know we are good stewards and we inform them of options early in the financial aid process,” Dudas said. “By continuing to keep tuition increases down, Seton Hill conveys in a powerful way that the University's administration takes college affordability very seriously.”

The national norm for tuition increases at private nonprofit four-year colleges averaged 4.2 percent in 2012, according to a report by the College Board. Public school college tuition increased at an even higher rate.

In contrast, Seton Hill’s increase in the 2012-2013 school year was 2.5 percent, the smallest percentage increase of any school in the region, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Tuition rate increases for the 2013-14 school year will be decided in February 2013, said Michael Poll, Seton Hill’s vice president for Enrollment Management and Marketing.

“Seton Hill is committed to keeping tuition as low as possible,” he said. “We want to balance affordability without sacrificing academic quality. That’s the challenge.”

It’s a challenge the school’s administrators have taken seriously by finding creative ways -- like the College in High School Program, as well as a new program that allows students to earn a bachelor and master degree in five years -- to save families money.

The emphasis on making school affordable to everyone also means each student’s financial aid needs are considered on an individual basis. The financial aid office works with each student’s family to maximize their financial aid packages, Dudas said. That individual attention proves an invaluable benefit to families, since each financial situation differs no matter what the official paperwork shows, Dudas said.

In all, about 97 percent of Seton Hill University’s undergraduate population receives some form of financial aid, which includes federal, state and Seton Hill scholarships. The average institutional scholarship aid, which includes federal, state and Seton Hill scholarships, is $15,000.

Available grants, scholarships and financial aid packages are detailed on Seton Hill’s website.

Dudas -- with three children of her own -- knows the importance of saving dollars on college. She said that she encourages families with incoming students to apply for every possible scholarship available to them, apply for financial aid, work study programs and grants, and take advantage of the College in High School Program. For families with younger children, she encourages them to start saving money through 529 plans or other interest-bearing accounts.
She also encourages parents with younger children to take advantage of the College in High School Program.

Finoli, 2011 valedictorian of Greensburg Central Catholic High School, said the academic edge the College in High School Program gave her was just as important as the financial boost. She will attend the Seton Hill branch of the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine after receiving her undergraduate degree.

“The classes are obviously more advanced, so it prepares you how to study, how to manage your time,” she said. “It really helped so that the whole college experience was not new and overwhelming.”

But while the academic boost proved invaluable, it was, in fact, the financial benefits that initially got her interested in earning college credits early. Each College in High School course costs just $220.

“Obviously school is really expensive and every bit of money you can save is valuable,” said Finoli, who also receives a partial athletic scholarship for her leadership on the school’s tennis team.

More and more students are taking advantage of the College in High School Program, said Terrance E. DePasquale, the dean of Graduate and External Programs. He administers the College in High School Program for Seton Hill. He said Seton Hill has partnered with 66 schools in Pennsylvania and two in Arizona to offer the Seton Hill-approved courses in core classes such as foreign languages, math and English.

There are 800 high school students enrolled in the college-approved courses. A student can take up to 30 credits, or a year of courses in advance of ever setting foot on Seton Hill’s campus, DePasquale said.

Tuition for a full-time undergraduate student at Seton Hill is $28,350 for the 2012-2013 school year. That means savings for students who take advantage of the College in High School Program can be significant for families, he said.

“Especially when you combine those savings with room and board, and think about the fact that these kids can jump into graduate school or the work force a year ahead of their peers,” he said. “Plus, we have found these kids are much more successful when they reach the college level because they have experience with the time management college courses take. It’s a real savings, anyway you look at it.”