North Park Makes A College Degree Accessible in Current Economy
University Continues to Provide Higher Education at a Lower Cost
CHICAGO (June 15, 2009) – When lack of finances forced Tanikia Thompson to drop out of college after just one year, the demoralized Chicago native wondered if she would ever graduate. Even after transferring to North Park University three years ago, Thompson admits, she didn’t allow herself to “get too comfortable.”
“I just knew that it was too good to be true and that at any moment I would have to pack my bags and return home,” she wrote in a blog entry on the University’s website.
Fortunately this talented, articulate media studies major was wrong. And on May 9, humble beginnings culminated in “pomp and circumstance” as Thompson became the first generation in her family to receive her college diploma.
In the midst of challenging economic times, students like Thompson are not hard to find. Many across the nation are fearful of crippling school debt and uncertain if higher education is even a possibility. At North Park, however, success stories like Thompson’s are also just as commonplace—thanks in part to competitive pricing that is helping the University attract and retain some of the best and the brightest.
“We have seen a few students who have chosen us over some other schools where their net costs would have been much higher and borrowing would have been excessive,” notes Mark Olson, North Park’s dean of enrollment and director of undergraduate admissions.
And while tuition, room, and board at North Park stands at $26,440, the cost to attend this private university on Chicago’s north side is still thousands below the national average, with students graduating with 20 percent less debt than their counterparts at peer institutions.
Last December North Park announced plans to increase merit and need-based financial aid for new students entering in August 2009. The University previously increased the amount of financial aid available for incoming students last fall, four years after a headline-making tuition cut and restructuring that has boosted total enrollment by more than 30 percent. From 2004 to 2008, the number of undergraduate students grew from 1,420 to 1,882, and within the last 15 years it has more than doubled. Despite the market downturn, in January North Park enjoyed high student retention, with 95 percent of its students returning to campus.
“Retention is generally understood to be an indicator of student satisfaction,” says Olson. “It also can be interpreted as confirmation of our view that affordable quality, which is what we offer, is important to students.”
In another step that will benefit both new and returning students, the University will not increase its rates for on-campus undergraduate housing for the 2009-2010 academic year. This applies to students living in the University’s four residence halls as well as in University-owned apartments and houses. And North Park anticipates making more aid available to students whose families experience a dramatic reduction in income, such as a parent losing a job. These students may file a financial aid appeal through the Financial Aid Office.
“Paying for higher education requires sacrifice and the whole family pulling together,” says Olson. Still, he insists, a college education shouldn’t have to be a luxury.
“Many colleges and universities convince students that an excellent education should be expensive, driving their tuition to unaffordable levels. But at North Park, we’re just as concerned with offering a strong liberal arts education as we are with keeping college accessible for students and families.”
In addition to finances, Thompson believes making it through college also requires a measure of faith. “I remember leaving the bookstore crying because I did not have the money to pay for books,” she recalls.
In her toughest times, she reflected on a few encouraging words given to her by a woman from her church. “She said that the Lord saw my situation, but that God has already made a way for me and that I would go to school and be the best at what I do,” says Thompson.
No doubt she will.