January 29, 2007

Meinig '61 to Return as Chair

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Peter Meinig ’61 was re-elected as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, the Board announced after its meetings in New York City this weekend. Meinig will serve as Chairman for three years from July 1 through June 30, 2010, and his term as trustee will be extended through July 1, 2011.

The Board of Trustees also voted to change the designation of the student-elected trustee positions, such that one undergraduate student and one graduate student would be elected in alternating years. As it currently stands, there is no provision that guarantees positions for both undergraduate and graduate students as student-elected trustees. The new system will undergo a four-year trial period before it is re-evaluated by the Trustee Nominating Committee, the Student Assembly, and the Graduate and Professional Assembly.

Student-elected trustee Doug Mitarotonda grad said that the decision will help students achieve better representation on the Board.

“[The decision] will help the Board because undergraduate and graduate students have different concerns when it comes to student affairs. It will make sure that all students’ voices are heard,” he said.

In addition, the Board approved increases in tuition and room and board rates for almost all of its units, endowed and contract. The hikes call for a 5.5 percent tuition increase at Cornell’s endowed colleges. Current rates range from $32,800 to $34,600.

Students in Cornell’s contract colleges are also looking at higher tuition rates, with plans calling for a 5.8 percent increase in tuition for New York State residents, to $19,100, and a 5.7 percent increase for nonresidents, to $33,500.

The tuition increases come hand-in-hand with increases in the cost of room and board. The cost of an average undergraduate room will increase by 4.5 percent, while the full dining plan will increase by 4 percent. The student activity fee is not set to increase.

Overall, the cost of room and board, tuition and mandatory fees for undergraduate students at Cornell in the endowed colleges will rise by 5.1 percent, from $43,707 to $45,971.

Tuitions for the Law School, the Johnson Graduate School of Management, and the School of Veterinary Medicine will also increase, with hikes ranging from just 4.3 percent for resident veterinary students to a hefty 10.1 percent increase in rates for entering students of the two year business school program. Only the Graduate School’s tuition will remain the same for the 2007-2008 academic year, staying at $32,000 for students in the endowed colleges and $20,800 for students in the contract colleges.

“The important issue here is that we are looking at ways to effectively compete on attracting graduate students as well as the critical external sponsored research funding necessary to support graduate education in many of our academic disciplines,” said Carolyn Ainslie, vice president for planning and budget.

Financial aid will play a significant role in making these increases affordable for the 54 percent of undergraduate students at Cornell currently receiving need-based aid.

“We affirm our commitment to maintaining access to a diverse student body by ensuring that financial aid for those in need is augmented commensurate with increases in tuition, room and board,” said Provost Biddy Martin.

Besides the usual alumni gifts and federal support, the University’s endowment fund will cover part of the additional financial aid spending. The fund showed a return of 16.1 percent in 2006, an increase over its 13.6 percent return in 2005. Another source of funding will likely come from the $4 billion capital campaign launched last fall, which pledged $640 million toward student support.

Yearly tuition and room and board increases have become almost standard for private and public higher education institutions across the country. The tuition increases are nearly always greater than the increase in the Consumer Price Index, a widely used benchmark of inflation.

The average tuition at private universities jumped 474 percent from 1970 to 1990, compared with the CPI’s increase of 248 percent. In 1980 college tuition took up an average of 26 percent of the median family income; in 2004, its share more than doubled to 56 percent.

Exceptions to this trend are few and far between, and Princeton’s Jan. 21 decision to freeze tuition for the first time in 40 years took many by surprise. Before this year, the last time an institution froze tuition and room and board was when Williams College did so in 2000.
For Princetonians, however, there will be no free lunch. Although tuition will remain the same, the cost of room and board at Princeton will increase to $10,980, resulting in an overall fee increase of 4.2 percent to $43,980.

“We are aware of the concerns people have about the high cost of sending kids to college. For students who don’t qualify for financial aid, this will hold the level of tuition steady for one year and we hope that will help. Our trustees feel strongly that it is very important that Princeton be affordable and be perceived as affordable for students at all income levels,” Robert K. Durkee, Princeton’s vice president and secretary, told The New York Times.