March 31, 2013

Cornell Students Disappointed, Concerned by Tuition Increase

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Students expressed discontent over Cornell’s announcement Friday that it would increase undergraduate tuition by $1,945 for the 2013-14 academic year.

The increase in tuition rates, which was approved by the Board of Trustees, will raise tuition to $45,130 for students in the endowed colleges and out-of-state students in the contract colleges. These students will pay a total of $58,987 next year for tuition, room and board and mandatory fees.

New York state residents in the contract colleges will see their tuition rates rise from $27,045 to $28,990. Their total cost of attendance will be $42,847, up from this year’s $40,902.

According to Simeon Moss ’73, deputy University spokesperson, tuition helps balance “continued academic quality … while recognizing annual increases in operational costs and the ongoing decline in federal and state support.”

“Cornell works very hard to moderate tuition increases and to provide access to a Cornell education for deserving students with need,” Moss said in an email.

This tuition increase follows a July announcement that, beginning Fall 2013, Cornell will no longer provide loan-free aid packages to all students who make under $75,000 a year.

Moss, however, said the tuition increase has not affected the University’s commitment to financial aid, adding that Cornell will aim to accommodate the tuition increase for financial aid recipients as part of their aid packages.

“Cornell remains committed to need-blind admissions and to increased access,” Moss said. “Increases in the University’s financial aid expenditures have exceeded increases in tuition annually on a percentage basis. Cornell’s financial aid provides support to roughly half of all undergraduate students.”

Students, however, expessed concern that Cornell has not provided concrete reasons for tuition increases over the past few years.

“There could be more transparency in how tuition money is spent,” Jess Reif ’14, a member of the Student Assembly Financial Aid committee, said. “A lot of students burdened by tuition increases have no way of knowing how the money is being spent.”

Ammar Busheri ’16 echoed her sentiments.

“There isn’t a concrete reason as to why they are [changing tuition],” he said. “If they give us a concrete reason like more undergraduate research opportunities, more housing options, more academic departments and programs, then it might seem feasible.”

Christine Yu ’14 said many students view the tuition hike as a financial burden, in addition to the extra fees students have to pay.

“Student debt is a national concern that’s only getting bigger, and Cornell’s tuition increases aren’t helping,” Yu said. “I think a lot of students here wonder why tuition keeps rising — we have a huge endowment, and we already get charged for gym memberships [and] undergraduate activity fees.”

Isabella Qendro ’15 said the increase in tuition does not seem consistent with recent decreases in funding for academic departments.

“Everyone keeps talking about how they keep decreasing funding from programs and departments. The [Modern] Greek [language program] was completely gone a few years ago,” she said. “How is it possible for tuition to keep increasing while funding keeps getting cut? Where does the money go?”

Yu also said she thinks the administration could find ways to avoid increasing tuition.

“We hear that it’s necessary in order to maintain the quality of Cornell’s education, but there are probably lots of other ways to do that besides tuition increases — such as cost cutting and more efficient allocation — without compromising quality,” Yu said. “It’s unclear to students if the administration is even considering other options besides charging more and spending more.”

Furthermore, many international students — most of whom do not receive financial aid from Cornell — might find the $1,945 increase  “impossible to accommodate,” according to Enrico Bonatti ’14, Student Assembly international representative at large.

“A very low percentage of international students receive financial aid at Cornell,” Bonatti said. “It might mean that individual will not go be able to go back for the summer because for students living in Asia, Africa or South America, [the tuition increase] is the price of the ticket to get home.”

Sarah Balik ’15, the S.A. Representative for the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, said while a tuition increase is not ideal, students should trust that the University had good reasons for making the decision.

“Obviously, Cornell is expensive, and any increase in tuition is upsetting to pretty much any student,” she said. “However, the University wouldn’t [increase tuition] if it wasn’t necessary, and we have to trust that decision. They are looking out for our best interests.”

Original Author: Manu Rathore