Seton Hall University is extending a program that allows qualifying students at the private school to save nearly 70 percent on tuition by paying rates on par with the public Rutgers University.

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University officials announced Thursday that The Public Tuition Rate program, started last year, is being extended and offered to incoming Seton Hall freshmen for the Fall 2013 semester.

Enrollees must have graduated in the top 10 percent of their high school class and have qualifying test scores. The program is open to applicants from across the country.

Seton Hall's regular tuition for the 2012-13 academic year is normally $32,700.Those accepted into the program can pay rates closer to Rutgers University's in-state tuition level of about $10,000 per year.

University officials said the program has helped diversify the student body, contributed to a recent 25 percent spike in enrollment and created opportunities for students who may have considered a private Catholic university education as financially prohibitive.

Seton Hall President A. Gabriel Esteban said the program is part of the school's commitment to making a Seton Hall education "attainable for hard-working, accomplished students of any means."

Alyssa McCloud, vice president of enrollment management at Seton Hall, said the program also offered incoming freshman a better idea of what their up-front costs would be, compared to the complexities of the traditional financial aid process.

She said the program was designed to let high-achieving high school seniors across the country know their college options don't have to be limited to public universities, but can include the chance to attain a private Catholic university degree.

School officials said the first round of the program attracted a lot of qualified applicants, contributing to the freshman class in 2012 reaching 1,450 students, its largest size in more than 30 years.


(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)