Our View: APU tuition cut is good news

Less shock in the sticker

APU's tuition cut runs counter to the trend, but makes sense

That's a fresh breeze coming off the northeast end of the U-Med District.

Alaska Pacific University announced last month that it's cutting its tuition by 34 percent, from $29,700 a year to $19,500 for undergraduate students in 2014.

The idea, said university president Don Bantz, is too get prospective students to take a second look at APU, not walk away with sticker shock before they even find out what financial aid might be available.

Nineteen thousand and change still leaves some shock in the sticker, but Bantz points out that now APU may offer a better deal for Alaskans than some of the big West Coast public schools. And the fact that APU will cut tuition when most schools have been cutting budgets and increasing tuition should get Alaska families' attention. Bantz said available financial can further cut the new tuition in half for many Alaska students.

APU can afford the cut for two reasons.

First, current faculty and facilities can handle the increase in students sought with the tuition cut. APU is operating under capacity. It's enrollment is 620; ideally, Bantz said, the school would have 750 students.

"Our marginal costs are minimal to add more students right now," Bantz said.

Second, the school's investment income from properties it owns offset some of its costs and allow the school to knock tuition down. Bantz said an APU education costs about $30,000 a year, but income outside of tuition can cover the reduction. Not every school has that option.

APU is small, private and intends to remain that way. It's not much of a competitor to UAA, its next-door neighbor, with its 18,000 students, greater facilities and course offerings.

But APU has long held a solid place in the higher education landscape here. The school stresses small classes and field work. It offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in the fields ranging from counseling and psychology to business and biology.

As their first class next fall, incoming freshman are invited on a two-week Yukon River float from Eagle to Circle.

"The kids are gonna have to unplug for two weeks," Bantz said. The Yukon River is an orientation to remember.

APU adds to the richness of choice in higher education here. The tuition cut makes that choice a little more affordable.

BOTTOM LINE: APU tuition cut is good news.