A summary of SLU’s Fiscal Year 2015 budget was released by Interim President Bill Kauffman last Thursday, announcing a 3.5 percent increase in undergraduate tuition and a 2.2 percent increase in graduate and professional tuition. In addition, the university has committed $137.7 million to financial aid and $5.3 million for faculty and staff salary raises, equating to a 2 percent merit compensation pool according to the letter.
“There was a concerted effort to keep tuition increases as reasonable as possible, while ensuring that we have the necessary financial resources to further enhance the already outstanding quality of a SLU education,” Kauffman said in his letter.
The intended increase will bring SLU’s undergraduate tuition cost to $37,350 per year and marks the smallest increase in tuition since FY 2010, when it was raised two percent, from $30,728 to $31,342. The MBA program will cost $54,355 per year, while the medical and law school tuition will be raised to $49,450 and $37,990, respectively.
Undergraduate rates for the Madrid Campus are to increase for four-year students by 3.5 percent and for study abroad, visiting and transfer students by 4 percent, bringing the cost to 9,000 euro and 10,500 euro per semester, respectively.
In an effort to counter rising costs, SLU has committed $137.7 million in institutional financial aid. Additionally, the university’s “Go Further” program has pledged to match the $1.5 million in donations that have been made to fund scholarships. “Go Further” is a fundraising effort in which SLU pledges to match any qualified scholarship gift of $100 or more.
Kauffman noted in his letter that a trend of decreasing enrollment in conjunction with a growing faculty and staff and increasing compensation and general expenses stand as a serious concern for SLU moving forward.
“This is not a sustainable situation, and is a challenge that we as a University community must address,” he wrote. He stated that he has reached out to Faculty Senate in order to create a process by which the university can examine its operations.
A rising cost of education is not particular to SLU: tuition rates of higher education institutions have continued to increase across the board in recent years. According to the College Board’s “2013 Trends in Higher Education Pricing” report, private non-profit four year institutions saw a 3.8 percent increase in tuition on average for the 2013-14 academic year, which was in line with SLU’s 3.9 percent increase that year.
While Jesuit institutions tend to have higher tuition rates than private universities as a whole, SLU’s rates have remained in line with the average for Jesuit schools. Annual tuition was $35,246 compared to $35,471 for Jesuit universities on average last year according to data from U.S. News & World Report.
The last two years also saw an increase in net tuition and fees for private non-profit universities, with costs moving from $11,550 in 2011-12 to an estimated $12,460 in 2013-14. The net tuition and fees metric takes in to consideration grant aid and tax benefits students take to lower the cost of education.
Kauffman noted that these trends are not expected to be short-term issues, which means university administrators will have to stay hard at work over the next year to find ways to cut costs and bring in more funding in order to maintain SLU’s position as a reasonably affordable Jesuit university.