Undergrad tuition increases 5.8 percent

Students attending Saint Louis University in the 2003-2004 school year will experience the lowest tuition increase in more than a decade.

The University has set the undergraduate tuition rate at $22,050, a 5.8 percent increase from 2002-2003, which is a hike of $1,190.

Graduate students will see a 4.5 percent increase, from $660 to $690 per credit hour. Law students can expect a 4.9 percent increase to $25,710. Medical students will now pay $36,190, a 4 percent increase. Full-time masters of business administration will also see a 4 percent increase to $26,520 and masters in social work will see an increase to $630 from $610 per credit hour.

“There was a strong intention to get the rate lower than previous years,” said Rob Altholz, vice president of finance.

Students, however, should not expect to see a huge increase in scholarships this year, as University funding for financial aid is set for a $2.4 million increase, making the total amount allotted approximately $66 million for undergraduates.

“If we were to escalate the amount of financial aid, we would have to increase the tuition,” said Joe Weixlmann, interim provost.

Most of the increase in aid will go to the 1,350 freshmen expected to pass under the SLU arches in the fall of 2003.

Various factors contribute to the rate of change, including balancing the University budget, other areas of revenue, desires for new programs, rising health-care costs and the endowment, which has taken a hit in recent years due to a poor economy.

According to Altholz, in June 2001, the endowment was at $825 million compared to only $695 million in June 2002. On Nov. 30, 2002, the amount had fallen to $641 million.

In addition, the stock market has provided negative returns for the past two years. The University’s investment return was negative 9.6 percent, compared to negative 18 percent for the S&P 500.

The University determines how much money will be taken from the endowment and placed in the unrestricted operating budget by taking 5 and 3/4 percent of the average of the last 12 quarters, which dates back to December of 1999. This budget process contribution from the endowment for this year totals $33 million.

The University is also looking to replace its administrative system. The 20-year-old system needs to be upgraded to a more modern venue, Altholz said. The three-year project would cost SLU approximately $8 million and would make the core computing systems on campus much easier for people to access information, said Interim Provost Joe Weixlmann.

SLU is also restructuring its health-care plan for faculty, into plans that cover the primary needs of the individual. The plans include a Preferred Provider Organization, which would be available at a higher price, and two Health Maintenance Organization plans. The change would put health-care costs at a 13 percent increase from last year, compared to a 20 percent average increase at the national level.

Currently Kathy Hagedorn, vice president for Human Resources,and the director of benefits, along with the Faculty Senate Compensation and Benefits Committee and the Staff Advisory Committee are reviewing the recommendations.

“These groups are providing many good ideas on how and when to communicate information, as well as offering their recommendations on the structure of plans, which will definitely impact the final health plan offerings,” said Hagedorn.

SLU’s increase in tuition is lower than state institutions, whose revenues have been hurt by the declining economy. Due to declining tax revenues, unfunded federal mandates and rising health-care costs, the percentage increase at these schools is in the double digits, Weixlmann said.

The increase, however, is not lower than Washington University, whose tuition rate will go up 5.2 percent, totaling $28,300 with an additional $283 activity fee and a $470 student health fee.

Marquette, a Jesuit institution, will also have a lower increase than SLU, with a 4.9 percent jump to $20,350.

Altholz said this year they decided to do a three-year budget projection, looking into the year 2006. In 2005, there will be a $10 million revenue reduction, due to the loss of SLU2000 funding, which is scheduled to end in 2004. To offset this problem, the University will most likely look at current academic programs and see which ones are flourishing–and which aren’t.

The airframe and power plant program in Parks College of Engineering and Aviation is one such area that will experience significant cutbacks. Other areas of declining interest will see modest cuts.

“There’s been a lot of thinking outside the box,” Weixlmann said. “We’ll be looking at options … the capital campaign, donations and more support in those ways.”

Students are getting a quality education for the money they pay, Weixlmann said. “If we want to keep quality, we have to move ahead. We have to move ahead, and we have to be better.”