The Story on FPU and Independent Higher Education

The Story on FPU and Independent Higher Education

You might be interested in what we do to make FPU affordable and to encourage student success—graduation in four years. This is the good news about FPU.

Thanks to University Editor, Wayne Steffen, who always helps to make me sound intelligent.

Jim Moore, news director
KMPH-TV, Channel 26

Dear Jim,

The segment “CSU may cut enrollment by 10,000 students” by Nicole Garcia that appeared Tuesday on your 10 p.m. broadcast was a timely look at a serious issue. Comments after the report by anchors Anna Laurel and Monty Torres, however, gave an incorrect impression about independent higher education I would like a chance to correct.

The remarks were to the effect that state budget cuts would force college students into expensive private schools—if they could afford them.

When you talk about independent schools in the Central Valley, you are talking about Fresno Pacific University. We are the only Valley-based independent university.  Our main campus is in Southeast Fresno and our regional centers are in North Fresno, Visalia and Bakersfield.

Affordability is a critical issue as students, and their families, choose where, and even whether, to attend college. This is especially true for many students in FPU’s traditional undergraduate program—the segment of students addressed in your report—qualified young people from modest economic means who are often the first in their family to attend college. Students, in short, who deserve the best, but can not pay premium prices.

Affordability comprises the cost of attendance in time and money, the quality of academic and professional preparation and employability after graduation. Students and parents are asking, “What will I get, what will it cost and what’s its value?”

The short answer at FPU is students get an excellent academic education that prepares them for success in careers and graduate school at a lower cost than they think and with value for life.

For years FPU has had the highest four-year graduation rate of any Valley college or university, often two and three times higher. In 2009 we built on that success with a four-year graduation guarantee for qualified incoming freshmen. Students who make the necessary academic progress will finish in four years, or the university will provide the needed classes at no cost in tuition or student fees.

In addition, FPU is welcoming students. Despite our strongest enrollment ever—more than 3,300 students in all undergraduate, bachelor’s degree-completion and graduate programs—we are not cutting back on classes or limiting applications. We are also proud our students represent this region’s wonderful ethnic and cultural diversity. We are, for example, listed as a Hispanic-serving institution by the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, and Hispanic students make up 30 percent of our total enrollment. In addition, 40 percent of our students are first-generation students.

Not only do they attend FPU, they graduate and succeed. Our alumni work for top firms, including Deloitte & Touche, LLP, and school districts throughout the Valley, putting their education to work right here at home. Others go on to prestigious graduate schools such as Yale, Santa Clara, Purdue and several UC campuses. They succeed because of the total value of an FPU education: rigorous classes, faculty who are both experts in their fields and committed to helping students and ethical development that gives employers the kind of workers they want.

Tuition at FPU for 2011-2012 will be $24,520, 13.5 percent below the average of private universities (room and board are $3,000-6,500, depending on the option). In 2009-2010 we were one of six universities nationwide that froze tuition. Our increase for 2011-2012 is 3.7 percent, below the 4.5 average increases for independent colleges and universities posted in 2010-2011 and expected for 2011-2012. Average hikes for public schools were 7.9 percent for 2010-2011 and 6.5 percent in 2009-2010.

In examining these figures it is necessary to remember that more than 97 percent of FPU students receive financial aid. In addition to state and federal aid, Fresno Pacific will give more than $10.8 million in academic, athletic, music and drama performance and other areas from our own funds next year.

We’re using that new tuition to increase financial aid, add professors and improve technology, facilities and services. Scholarships for new students, which range from $3,000 to full tuition, are up $500-$1,000 from last year, and more funds are available for work-study positions. In addition, more classrooms will be converted to computer-enhanced “smart” classrooms, academic support will be expanded and campus security will be augmented.

Speaking of financial aid, did you know independent universities are a bargain for California taxpayers? It is less expensive to send students to schools such as FPU with state aid because the state does not have to cover other costs, such as professors and facilities, as it does at CSU and UC campuses. With our higher graduation rates, students at independent schools also graduate more quickly and reliably so they can get jobs and become taxpayers themselves.

Look at the total picture and you see FPU is indeed an affordable investment. By keeping our focus on providing challenging academics that lead to ethical and professional development and supporting faculty who are mentors as well as experts, we make every dollar count.

As your news report indicated, these are difficult times for students and their families. FPU is doing all it can to give them some assurance as they plan for the future.

I look forward to speaking with you more and getting out the real story of independent higher education.


Stephen Varvis, Ph.D., vice president of enrollment management, Fresno Pacific University

Educated State
Steve Varvis

Steve Varvis

Tagged: Investment Student Success Today's Students