February 14, 2008

Undergraduate Tuition Up Despite Capital Campaign

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Amidst the hype surrounding Cornell’s recently announced financial aid initiative and the progress of the Capital Campaign, few undergraduates realize that they will be paying more for tuition next year.
According to a press release, the tuition for undergraduate students at the endowed colleges will rise by 4.9 percent, from $34,600 to $36,300.[img_assist|nid=27777|title=Percentage Tuition Increase At Cornell, Other Ivies|desc=|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0] This, along with the 4 percent increase in housing and dining fees, will result in an overall 4.7 percent hike in all fees from $46,021 to $48,194.
Both New York State residents and non-residents at land grant colleges will also have to pay more next year. While residents’ tuition will increase by 5.5 percent to $20,160, non-residents’ will increase by 5.1 percent to $35,200.
On the other hand, the University also announced a drop in graduate school tuition for the first time. The tuition will decrease by 10.1 percent to $29,500. This drop only applies to students in research-degree programs affiliated with the endowed colleges. The tuition of contract colleges will remain frozen at $20,800 for graduate students. The three professional schools — Law School, Johnson School, and the College of Veterinary Medicine will all increase tuition by various degrees.
The above changes have all been approved by the Board of Trustees.
The administration stressed that there is no correlation between the changes in tuition and the latest financial aid initiatives.
“The new financial aid initiative is not being funded directly from the 2008-09 tuition increase, but from reallocation of existing resources, endowment income and new gifts,” said Carolyn Ainslie, vice president for planning and budget.
Although the Capital Campaign will also help to fund future financial aid, it will not eliminate the need to increase tuition, according to Provost Biddy Martin.
“Tuition increases are an attempt to keep up with the costs of education … We believe that those who can afford to pay the price of tuition should,” she said.
The Capital Campaign, however, will help support many graduate students’ education, according to Dean of the Graduate School Alison Power.
Power also explained that the decrease in tuition will not be strongly felt by most graduate students because most of them receive funding packages from Cornell or other funding agencies. However, due to reductions in federal government funding and tuition capping on some granting agencies, support for graduate students has been increasingly difficult.
“The lower tuition rate should help faculty to increase the number of grants received and the number of students supported on those grants,” Power said.
Although the University’s income from graduate tuition will drop by more than $4.5 million due to the cut in tuition, this trend is expected to continue in the upcoming years. According to Power, the Graduate School is aiming to reduce the tuition of endowed colleges to the level of contract colleges at about $20,000 by 2012.
Power also stressed that the decrease in graduate tuition has “no direct link” to the increase in undergraduate tuition.
“We anticipate that part of the foregone tuition revenue will be replaced by an increase in the number of graduate students supported on grants. In addition, we anticipate that gift income from the Capital Campaign will also help to replace this lost income,” Power said.
At the undergraduate colleges, even with the annual increase in tuition, a student’s tuition alone cannot cover the full cost of his education, which amounts to the $50,000 range, according to Ainslie.
“In a way all students are subsidized by endowments and gifts,” she said.
Salaries for faculty and staff make up the largest proportion of the University’s budget at 60 percent, estimated Ainslie. She also implied that due to inflationary pressure and changes in the labor market, the pay for faculty and staff is going to increase in order to maintain Cornell’s competitiveness among peer institutes.
“Higher education is labor intensive … and we need to stay competitive in recruiting and retaining faculty and staff,” Ainslie said.
It is possible that the recent downturn in the economy has affected the tuition decisions in some other Ivy League universities. Yale, Princeton and Brown all announced smaller increases in tuition for the next academic year, with Brown planning to slow the increase in both tuition and salaries.
Although Cornell has not made a similar announcement, Prof. Ronald Ehrenberg, industrial labor relations and economics, claimed that Cornell is making a “substantial effort” to slow down tuition increase.
“This year’s Cornell undergraduate tuition increase in the private part of the University is the smallest relative to the rate of inflation that has occurred in many years,” said Ehrenberg, who is also a member of the Board of Trustees.
In previous years, Cornell annually raised tuition by about 2 to 3 percent more than the rate of inflation, according to Ehrenberg. This year, however, the raise in tuition is lower than 2007’s inflation rate of 4.1 percent.
Ehrenberg explained that the difference was due to Cornell’s “substantial effort” to hold down tuition increase. He added that the there was “a lot of pressure from the Congress to hold down tuition increase,” referring to the Senate Finance Committee’s request for detailed information on endowment growth and student financial aid on Jan. 24.
Various student representatives expressed understanding and support for the University’s decision.
“I do think the increase is acceptable,” Student Assembly President C.J. Slicklen ’09 said. “Initially, no one likes to pay more tuition. But when you see the logistics, the cost to remain competitive, and the rising costs in higher education, students can understand this.”
He suggested that the University could put more effort in explaining the tuition changes.
“I think the University could do a better job of publicizing their justification, maybe [through] an e-mail to all students and a letter to new students,” he said.
While applauding Cornell’s new financial aid initiative, student trustee Kate Duch ’09 expressed concern over the increased tuition’s impact on admissions.
“No university can unilaterally decide to reduce its costs without sacrificing the quality of students who apply and enroll. I do not think that the increase places Cornell at a competitive disadvantage [among] private institutions … [but] annual tuition increases across private colleges and universities prompt more and more students to apply and enroll in less expensive public universities,” Duch said.
Student trustee Mao Ye grad also emphasized the importance of the new financial aid initiative.
“Facing the increase of education cost, the no-loan financial aid initiative announced recently is essential. It gives opportunities to all deserving students, and ensures that their careers will not be affected by financial constraint,” said Ye.
He also suggested that increased cost of providing education is understandable as it is necessary to increase faculty salary under inflationary pressure.
“It is essential [that] the faculty salary [does] not decline relative to the salary of people in other industries. Otherwise, few professors will be devoted to this industry,” said Ye.