Incoming freshmen and transfer students at Washington State University Tri-Cities now have a chance to shave thousands of dollars off their tuition bills.
The school Wednesday launched a new set of tuition waivers as part of its New Student Academic Achievement Award. Qualifying students will have to meet academic benchmarks to qualify and maintain good grades to continue receiving the waivers after the first year.
The new waivers will consolidate some of the money the university already gives out to students, but officials said the school is poised to spend about $62,000 more on financial aid through the new initiative and spread money to dozens more students.
Jana Kay Lunstad, the school's enrollment management coordinator, said the waivers will help recruit and retain students at the Richland campus.
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"If we can make it easier for them to stay and graduate, then we should do it," she said.
The waivers only are available to Washington residents. Transfer students can qualify for $50 to $100 of credit, for about $3,000 to $6,000 during two years.
Freshmen can receive up to $4,000 a year, with a maximum of $16,000 during four years.
In addition to a demonstrated financial need, academic requirements are stiff, with transfer students needing at least a 3.2 grade-point average to apply and keeping a 3.0 GPA or better to renew the award.
Freshmen must have at least a 3.6 high school GPA, SAT score of 1150 or ACT score of 25 and have applied to the school before Feb. 1 to receive a waiver. They also must take 12 credits a semester and maintain a 3.5 GPA or better to keep receiving the financial aid.
Lunstad said the new waivers are adaptations of similar programs offered at WSU's Pullman and Vancouver campuses. The Richland campus previously renewed the freshman awards for students who transferred from the other schools.
Not many freshmen at the Richland campus would have qualified for a waiver last year, Lunstad said, "but each one of those students would have benefited greatly."
She said the waivers could be a real benefit to transfer students, who are more likely to have other commitments to family and work.
Annual tuition at WSU Tri-Cities is more than $11,000, having grown during the past few years because of state budget cuts to higher education.
Lunstad said while the waivers will only cover a small portion of a student's tuition bill, the waivers are aimed at the high-achieving students who university officials want to keep on campus.
And the waivers have the potential to bolster the Richland campus' enrollment, she said. The Richland campus currently has about 1,400 students, down from a peak of more than 1,500 students in 2010.
WSU Tri-Cities already has plans to heavily promote the new waivers. Lunstad and admissions officers will be at CBC Thursday to field questions about the new financial aid and applications.
All freshmen who applied before February as well as any transfer students who have applied for admission also will be notified of the opportunity to seek a waiver.
While the new financial aid offerings were developed solely through WSU Tri-Cities, Rich Cummins, president of Columbia Basin College said he applauded them. Many of CBC's graduates end up transferring to WSU Tri-Cities.
"It's thinking about the student first," he said. "This is a fantastic proactive approach."
Lunstad said she didn't have specifics about where the money for the waivers will come from, but in the end students could end up paying for themselves by helping them stay in school and pay tuition.
"It's less expensive to retain a student than to recruit a student," she said.
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