Tuition rates rise across the board

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Tuition rates rise across the board

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SLU's annual undergraduate tuition increases have outpaced U.S. inflation over the past four years, but the average increase remains below the national average for four-year private schools.

On Jan. 17, Saint Louis University President Fr. Lawrence Biondi, S.J., announced in his monthly President’s Message that undergraduate tuition would increase by 3.8 percent for the 2012-13 academic year, raising the annual amount to $34,740. The SLU Board of Trustees approved the increase in December.

In the message, Biondi emphasized the University’s commitment to its mission of education, research, service and health care and acknowledged the need to keep tuition increases at a moderate level.

“To fulfill our mission — while moving the University forward — means that we must keep tuition increases reasonable and affordable while controlling our expenses in relationship to our accumulative revenue sources,” Biondi said in the message.

In addition to the increase in undergraduate tuition approved by the Board of Trustees, graduate and professional tuition will increase by 2 percent. Room and board will also see a 2 percent increase.

Student Government Association President Matt Ryan characterizes annual tuition increases as “tough,” but he sees SLU as a valuable university.

“If you look at our top Jesuit school competitors, out of the top 25 schools, we have the 12th highest tuition but are consistently ranked in the top five best schools,” Ryan said. “It’s not that we don’t need to be constantly cognizant of our costs. We need to match every dollar increase with an increase in value.”

Some students, such as senior Joe Andreoni, hope that the increased tuition brings some minor changes to campus.

“Hopefully, with the raise in tuition, they can afford to open DeMatt and Fusz food courts before 11 a.m. for hungry students like myself,” Andreoni said.

The 3.8 percent undergraduate tuition increase stands as the lowest amount since the 2009-10 academic year. In 2010-11 and 2011-12, tuition increased 4 percent each year.

According to a 2011 report titled “Trends in College Pricing” by The College Board, the national average undergraduate tuition increase for four-year private nonprofit colleges (such as SLU) was 4.5 percent in 2010-11 and 4.6 percent in 2011-12.

Interim Vice President of Business and Finance and Chief Financial Officer David Heimburger said that at least six other Jesuit universities will have higher tuition increases than SLU next year and that SLU’s increase will be in line with the expected U.S. Consumer Price Index. The CPI serves as a measure of the changes in the price level of goods and services purchased by U.S. households. It is published monthly by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“A [college] education is expensive, as [students] know,” Heimburger said. “Our goal was to keep our tuition rates manageable for our families.”

As a whole, the annual price increases in higher education have outpaced the CPI. According to the “Trends in College Pricing” report, from 2001-02 to 2011-12, tuition rates at four-year private colleges rose 2.6 percent above the inflation rate.

SLU Professor of Economics Lisa Gladson said that colleges and universities are human endeavors and therefore possess high labor costs due to the need for highly skilled, and often times expensive, labor in the form of faculty and staff. Another factor affecting college costs is the need for schools to attract students and the resources required to do so. Above all, however, Gladson said that the increasing demand and necessity for higher education drives the price.

“As the workforce becomes more skilled, the more the product, or college degree, will be needed,” Gladson said. “Over a lifetime, the degree reaps benefits and outweighs the cost. A college degree offers a higher wage profile and an insurance policy in the job market.”

In the President’s Message, Biondi said that SLU remains in a solid financial position overall and cited the impact of external forces on the University, such as “the turbulent U.S. economy, growing challenges to student recruitment and retention, as well as the uncertainties of health care” and economic uncertainty in Europe.

“If a meltdown in the European economy were to occur, it would significantly affect American markets as well as our endowment, which was significantly impacted by the economic crisis that began in 2008,” Biondi said in the message. “It is important that we prepare ourselves for similar stormy economic weather.”

Despite this, Biondi said that the University expects approximately $7 million more available for institutional scholarships and financial aid in 2012-13, bringing the total provided to approximately $123 million.

According to Assistant Vice President and Director of Student Financial Services Cari Wickliffe, the University has increased the overall aid awarded to undergraduate students by $25 million over the past five years. SLU also offers aid to students whose families encounter sudden financial difficulty.

“The University has emergency scholarship and loan funds specifically for families experiencing unexpected financial changes,” Wickliffe said. “These programs were designed to be temporary but continue to be supported.”

In addition, SLU engages with the Keep Me In College coalition, an effort by the Missouri Independent College and University Association to preserve state aid available to Missouri college students.

Wickliffe said that students can take individual action to reduce their college costs by striving to earn their degree on time and searching for scholarships online. SLU maintains an online database that shows additional scholarship and funding opportunities for students. She also said that small, personal changes may help students financially.

“It sounds simple, but budget wisely. It’s important that students track their spending. A good question to ask is, ‘Do I need a $5 cup of coffee five times a week?’” Wickliffe said.

 

Graph statistics provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the University News archives and the College Board