January 28, 2010

Skorton Explains Tuition Raise and Increased Financial Aid Initiatives at First Student Assembly Meeting

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After President Skorton’s acceptance of responsibility to attend S.A. meetings more frequently, Vice President for Public Relations Vincent Andrews ’11 asked Skorton to walk through the University’s process of raising tuition. Noting that tuition is the biggest revenue stream for the University and that last year’s tuition hike was the smallest in 42 years, Skorton said that this year’s increase was of similar magnitude.

“It is still more than inflation. It is still a burden,” Skorton said. “There is no question that the students and their families are carrying a large portion of the burden.”

Yet the University’s commitment to increase student financial aid made it possible that “a growing proportion of students of need on campus actually have a lower cost of attendance than in 2000-01 year,” Skorton said.

He referenced a graph from a recent presentation made by Provost Kent Fuchs to the Board of Trustees that split the student body in five groups, showing the bottom three quintiles paying, on average, less than 10 years ago.

Addressing one of his major goals, to work toward attenuating the rate of rising tuition, Skorton spoke of his personal experience with student loans. “Even the reduced cost of attendance is still very expensive. And many students know exactly what it is like. It took me 21 years to pay my loans off.”

Besides the raise in tuition, Chris Basil ’10 asked Skorton about Cornell’s Ivy League pressure over financial aid packages for athletes in the Ivy League. The financial aid support, according to Skorton, is in service of creating a diverse student body.

“The process was to greatly increasing the amount of money for financial aid in general. We decided to also focus on underrepresented minorities, to priorities of different colleges on campus, and to student athletes and certain areas where we would push even farther,” Skorton said.

The University discussed with other members of the Ivy League whether the student athlete portion of the financial aid policy was consistent with Ivy League rules. The Ivy League disagreed with Skorton and believed that the student athletes were outside the boundaries of the Ivy League rules.

“It was not a decision that had anything to do with other kinds of financial aid. I am extraordinarily proud that the class of 2013 is the most racially diverse class in the history of the university,” Skorton said. “We will work with our colleagues and we will figure out a way to meet the letter and spirit of the law.”

In addition to Skorton’s address to the Student Assembly, Resolutions 42 and 43 were presented and scheduled for a vote in the meeting with fewer than 15 audience members.

Resolution 42, which was drawn up as a response to the tremendous activism in support of Haiti relief, would establish a Student Assembly Public Service Committee that is geared toward providing a “strong platform for collaboration between service-minded organizations on campus.”

Resolution 43 will ask all Cornell faculty to submit their booklists to the Cornell bookstore and abide by the submission deadlines. This request will be made in the hope that more used books may be bought by the bookstore and made available to students so that textbook costs can be kept down.

Also discussed was a report from the University Library Board that mentioned more strategic planning to reevaluate all the departmental libraries on campus. The next to be studied will be the Engineering library in Carpenter Hall.

Original Author: Brynn Leopold