Fee-free term is on the cards

November 25, 2005

As the poker craze sweeps across US university campuses, one student has figured out a novel way to make the most of his card-playing skills by winning a semester's tuition fees in his first poker tournament.

Jeremy Olisar, a 21-year-old undergraduate at Carnegie Mellon University, beat 300 other students to win an online "Texas Holdem" poker tournament.

"I am in shock and disbelief," said Mr Olisar, an avid card player who works part-time to pay his tuition fees. One semester at Carnegie Mellon, near Pittsburgh, costs $21,685 (£12,600), including room and board.

The tournament was run by AbsolutePoker.com. To enter, students had to prove they were enrolled and in good standing at a university.

Although this tournament was free, online poker has left other students in debt. More than half a million people gamble online worldwide each week, losing $2.2 billion a year, according to industry analysis site PokerPulse.com.

Schools such as Carnegie Mellon are near the top end of the tuition-fee scale in the US, where fees are rising faster than inflation. At least 25 schools charge more than $40,000 a year for classes, room and board.

The latest tuition fee report from the College Board, an association of universities, coincided with US census figures showing a decline in the future earnings potential of university graduates.

Four-year private universities cost an average of $18,3 for tuition and $6,779 for room and board a year, an increase on last year of 5.8 per cent and 4.6 per cent respectively, and an average total of $25,052. Four-year public universities charge an average of $4,081 for tuition, up 9.6 per cent on the previous year, and $5,582 for room and board, up 6 per cent.

But the College Board said fees at four-year universities had risen by just under 40 per cent in the past decade after adjustment for inflation. It described this as a positive development because fees increased by about 60 per cent in the previous decade.

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