Summer 2014 Frog Campers pose at Challenge B, one of the Texas camps that will now be free.

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Frog Camps in Texas will be free for the first time this summer.

The nine Texas camps have between 160 and 350 students and used to cost between $200 and $250, said Trung Nguyen, director of first year experience. About 80 percent of incoming students attend the camps.

Funding is coming out of TCU’s operating budget, said Kathy Cavins-Tull, vice chancellor for student affairs.

The biggest obstacle for many students attending Frog Camp is the financial burden.

“What we wanted to do was eliminate that obstacle for all of our students,” Nguyen said. “If you want to come to a Frog Camp, we want to make it accessible for you.”

Frog Camps started 20 years ago and have been widely successful, Cavins-Tull said.

While there is no clear causal relationship, students who attend the camps tend to persist and graduate from TCU at a higher rate than those who do not, Cavins-Tull said. However, connecting students to peer leaders and mentors among members of TCU’s faculty and staff contributes to that higher success rate, she said.

A sense of belonging is critical for incoming college students, and the camps create an immediate community, Nguyen said.

“Someone’s going to miss them if they’re not there,” Nguyen said.

The plan is to keep the camps free, but the success of the program will be evaluated each year to determine if it is worth the cost, Cavins-Tull said.

Hunter Vaccaro, a Frog Camp executive director, said the camps help students recognize that college is doable.

“We get all these students together and kind of call out the elephant in the room and say, ‘Look around you. You are not alone,’” Vaccaro said.

Frog Camps will begin in early June and continue through the summer into August.