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Victor tackles challenges of rising tuition, student debt

Friday, February 26, 2016

President Michael Victor

The challenge of paying for college and the impact of rising student debt continues unabated, but at Mercyhurst University, President Michael Victor is taking steps to address this national higher education and economic crisis.

Today, Victor announced that Mercyhurst will implement the lowest tuition increase in more than a decade at its Erie campus and will hold the line on any tuition increase at its North East campus. And, earlier this month, the Victor administration unveiled a free online resource to support students and alumni struggling to manage their student debt, one of the most timely and troublesome issues facing many young Americans today. 

Victor stressed that today’s students and their families expect high value for their tuition dollars, and Mercyhurst continues to drive quality while being sensitive to the financial impact on families, both now and in the future.

At its Feb. 20 board meeting, the Mercyhurst University Board of Trustees approved a 3.5 percent tuition increase, which will bring tuition and fees for Erie undergraduates to $34,480 for the 2016-2017 academic year. Tuition at North East will remain at $17,496. In the past decade, tuition increases at Erie had averaged 5.8 percent and, since 2010, 4.67 percent at North East.

“My administration is committed to allocating our resources in areas that best serve the needs of our students as we continue to seek ways to increase efficiencies and control costs,” Victor said. “We remain steadfast in our mission of keeping an excellent education accessible and affordable. At North East, particularly, we educate many underserved populations and are pleased to be able to hold the line on tuition for next year.”

Victor emphasized that 95 percent of all Mercyhurst students receive financial aid and scholarship assistance, which significantly reduces base tuition.

Coupled with the tuition decision, Victor worked with Vice President for Enrollment Joe Howard to help students and alumni take control of their personal finances and student loans.

This month, Mercyhurst became the first school in northwestern Pennsylvania to partner with the nonprofit organization American Student Assistance® to provide a free service called SALT™ to the university’s 3,400+ students and 16,000+ alumni. (SALT is not an acronym, but a reference to a type of ancient currency.)

“Mercyhurst is taking a leadership role in higher education and providing this program to help our students become financially literate,” said Howard. “We also see SALT as a resource for recent alumni as they begin the process of paying back their college loans.”

SALT, available online at saltmoney.org, provides personalized tools to teach students and alumni how to borrow less for college, borrow the right types of loans, make repayment stress-free and build money knowledge. SALT has an online community where members can talk with experts and peers about student debt, financial aid and managing personal finances. SALT counselors also work directly with students and alumni to help negotiate with their loan servicers.

Nationally, approximately 12 million students borrow for college each year, but many borrow more than they need, or fail to take advantage of the many programs to make repayment more manageable, according to SALT. As many as one in three student loan borrowers in the U.S. are delinquent on payment 90 days or more, delaying the ability to buy homes, cars or any other consumer purchases typically associated with starting out in life.

“A college degree has never been more valuable than in today's global economy and, at Mercyhurst, we are committed to our students’ success, both in college and beyond,” Howard said. “We are eager to provide this new support system to help them manage their debt and make wise financial decisions for their futures.”