Tuition Rise Puts Nursing Students in Bind

Honolulu Star - Advertiser, April 12, 2013 | Go to article overview

Tuition Rise Puts Nursing Students in Bind


Students in Hawaii Pacific University's graduate nursing program say they're scrambling to apply for student loans and find second jobs after learning that their tuition will increase by more than 50 percent this summer.

The private university will begin charging $1,150 per credit in the summer and fall for the program's courses -- a 53 percent increase over the $750 charged now.

The increase will affect 60 students in the program, which offers master's degrees in nursing.

Several students are scheduled to take an eight-credit practicum course that involves clinical experience in the summer, which will now cost $9,200 instead of $6,000. Then, in the fall, students in the program typically take 11 credits, which will cost $12,650 instead of $8,250.

Emily Brewer, who is pursuing her master's degree in nursing, said students were caught off-guard by the tuition hike. The university sent an email to students in late February, alerting them to "modest" tuition increases of 3 to 8 percent for most undergraduate and graduate programs. The memo included a link to a tuition schedule that listed the higher rates for the graduate nursing program.

"It's not fair or right to slap us with this without any warning or help," said Brewer, 30, who serves as HPU's graduate student representative this school year.

She said she already works full time as a nurse and will have to take out another student loan to continue her schooling.

"I work full time; I can't work any more. I was on the Internet for hours searching for scholarships," Brewer said, adding that the deadline to apply for most scholarships has passed and that they generally disqualify students who work.

"I went into this program thinking it would cost a certain amount, and halfway through they decide to raise tuition more than 50 percent," she said.

An HPU official said the increase is tied to what's known as a preceptor fee. Preceptors are field professionals whom students shadow one-on-one for class credit and experience. The change comes as the university felt increased pressure from providers to pay for placing students.

"In the past it didn't cost us anything," said Scott Stensrud, special assistant to HPU President Geoffrey Bannister. "It's not something we really can control. If we didn't have this (fee), we would lose the ability to place students with professionals in the field."

Stensrud declined to say how much HPU will now have to pay for preceptorships, but said the university isn't passing the entire cost on to students.

"We're sort of at the mercy of the clinical locations," he said, noting competition from other health care degree programs. …

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