WATERVILLE — The high cost of higher education won’t get any higher for at least one Maine college next year.

Thomas College will not raise its rates for tuition and fees for the next academic year, according to a recent announcement by Jennifer Buker, public relations director at the private liberal arts college.

The decision, which was made by the Thomas College Board of Trustees in late January, is partly in response to a recent student survey to bolster student retention.

For at least one academic year, the tuition rate will hold at $22,160 for full-time students. The decision also includes fees for activities and technology — currently at $610 and $470, respectively.

The decision does not include room and board, which will increase by 4 percent for an overall increase of 1.16 percent for on-campus students.

Currently, the total cost for residential students is $31,940.

The zero percent tuition increase bucks the national trend. The average annual tuition increase for private U.S. colleges has been about 4 percent over the past three years, according to a 2011 study by the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. The study showed that increases in tuition are slowing from average annual increases of 6 percent during the previous 10 years.

Colby Averill, a Thomas College junior who is studying management, said the decision to freeze the cost of tuition will promote continued growth at the school of nearly 700 full-time students.

“I think it’s a good thing. If you keep raising tuition, it’s going to look less appealing to incoming students,” he said.

Averill said he participated in the survey and he receives financial aid.

“It’s going to help kids who need a lot of financial aid, because it could be hard to get financial aid for that increase,” he said.

Tom Beaudoin, a junior who is studying sports management, said he works in several positions at the school year-round to make monthly payments toward his tuition. Freezing tuition at its current level will have a tangible impact on his finances, he said.

At the same time, the school announced that its merit scholarships, which are awarded to first-time students, will increase in award amounts during the next academic year, from a range between $3,000 and $10,000 this year to $5,000 and $13,000 next year.

Frozen tuition rates are common at nearby Kennebec Valley Community College in Fairfield, according to Jonathan Humphrey, marketing specialist at the school.

The Maine Community College System, which governs the school and six other community colleges, has frozen tuition increases during eight of the past 12 years, Humphrey said.

Currently the tuition rate at the college is $86 per credit hour. The board of trustees at the Maine Community College System has not yet voted on rates for the next academic year.

At Colby College, no decision has been made regarding next year’s cost, according to Ruth Jacobs, associate director of communications.

Jacobs added that the school does not itemize its fees for room, board and tuition. The cost to attend Colby College during the 2011-12 academic year is $53,800.

Ben McCanna — 861-9239

[email protected]