Juniata Affordability Programs Seek to Help Students, Families in Tough Times

(Posted March 16, 2009)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Citing the current economic recession, the Juniata College board of trustees at a Feb. 19-21 meeting in Washington, D.C. elected to reduce its scheduled increase for tuition, room and board and fees to just 3.9 percent, the lowest increase in nine years.

"In this economic climate, Juniata would like to be as transparent as possible about proposed increases for our students," says Thomas R. Kepple, president of Juniata. "Our students and parents of students chose us for the high quality of our educational experience and this increase allows us the ability to provide that education while balancing the budget."

"In this economic climate, Juniata would like to be as transparent as possible about proposed increases for our students. Our students and parents of students chose us for the high quality of our educational experience and this increase allows us the abil

Juniata is hardly alone in its reactions to the current economic crisis. Dartmouth University plans to lay off 60 workers, Boston College called for a university-wide budget cut of 2 percent, and Johns Hopkins froze all hiring and most salary increases and reduced its top administrators salaries by 5 percent.

Many of these larger institutions have had to make cuts because significant parts of their operating budget is tied to their endowments. Most college and university endowments suffered losses between 25 and 40 percent of their value. Juniata lost roughly 30 percent of its endowment value. The value of Juniata's endowment is now about $55 million. "Our endowment is modest compared to some of our competitors, so while the impact on our operating budget was important, it was also relatively minor. We have had to tighten our belts significantly, but we haven't had to make severe cutbacks," Kepple says.

Juniata has made some cost-saving changes for employees. The salaries of faculty, administration and staff will be frozen, with the exception of the unionized physical facilities employees and about 10 employees who have received promotions. "We also are holding non-salary budget increases to a net 1 percent," Kepple says.

Juniata also has initiated four new programs designed to lessen the economic impact of the recession for students and families and help keep costs down.

--Juniata has increased work-study opportunities on campus by creating 30 new campus employment positions. Juniata also earmarked more funds for higher wages in the Juniata Associates program, which pays seniors overseeing complex projects or supervising other students. For example, Juniata pays the student managers for the college's information technology program well above the minimum wage.

--The college has set aside funding to adjust financial aid awards if a family's primary wage earner loses a job or the family experiences a catastrophic financial change. "We will adjust the student's financial aid award so that the percentage of need met before the family emergency is still met," Kepple explains. "We are ready to ensure students enrolled at Juniata can continue in the event of catastrophic financial loss."

--Juniata's financial aid budget increased by about 8 percent from $19 million to $20.6 million next year. "Financial aid is the college's largest expenditure, and this year it has the largest increase of any line in the budget," says Kepple.

--The board of trustees approved the use of up to $2 million of the College's endowment principal for short-term, low-interest loans to families of Juniata students whose current loans are no longer available due to changes in real estate values or related issues.

Kepple also points out that Juniata's sustainability efforts have resulted in cost savings. The college's $6 million 2001-2002 infrastructure project, which improved the campus heating and cooling infrastructure and revamped the college's electrical and telecommunications systems and the 2008 installation of a geothermal heating/cooling system for the renovated Founders Hall has kept Juniata's energy consumption at below-1998 levels.

In addition, the college also started several new food plans designed to lower costs to students. To date, students have taken advantage of the new plans, collectively saving about $100,000.

Kepple points out that Juniata's commitment to providing an affordable education in four years or fewer also is a significant money saver for many families. Juniata's "Four Year Guarantee," guarantees that an incoming freshman will graduate in four years or less or the courses the student needs to graduate are free.

"Few colleges come close to our four-year graduation rates, and extra years of tuition and lost wages add significantly to the cost of a bachelor's degree," Kepple says.

Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.