February 18, 2016

Tuition Hike Said to Support Increasing Operation Costs

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The approved 3.75 percent increase in tuition will help address the rising operating costs of the University, according to Barbara Knuth, senior vice provost and dean of the graduate school.

Among the areas covered with the increased undergraduate tuition will be faculty and staff salaries and benefits, academic program investments and facilities maintenance and utilities, according to Knuth. Additionally, she said the University aims to “realize sufficient tuition revenue to sustain the quality and value of a Cornell education” and “provide access to education for deserving students regardless of their ability to pay” when setting to yearly tuition rates.

“If we did not continue to invest in our people, programs and facilities, the quality of a Cornell education would quickly degrade,” Knuth said.

Provost Michael Kotlikoff announced last Thursday that undergraduate tuition will rise 3.75 percent in the 2016-17 academic year. The increase will result in a $50,712 tuition for endowed college students and out-of-state contract college students, and a $33,968 for New York residents enrolled in contract colleges, according to a University press release.

Despite the tuition increase of 3.75 percent, the net undergraduate tuition revenue will increase by approximately 2.4 percent after undergraduate financial aid expenditures are subtracted, according to Knuth.

“The investment in financial aid — about $235 million annually — reduces the amount Cornell actually receives from tuition by approximately 35 percent,” Knuth said. “With this 35 percent financial aid ‘discount’ the actual net value of the tuition increase will be approximately 2.4 percent, which is closer to historical and projected inflation rates.”

Most undergraduates who receive grant aid as part of their financial aid package, will not see an increase in tuition because a rise in tuition would mean an increase in grand aid as well, according to Knuth.

“Because Cornell meets the full demonstrated need of students on financial aid, this means that as tuition fees increase, Cornell grant aid also increases in most students’ financial aid packages to meet the increased costs their accounts would be billed,” Knuth said.

When adjusted for inflation, the median net tuition for most students receiving financial aid will remain lower than that of 2008, when the University instituted a series of significant financial aid initiatives, Knuth said.

In addition to the 3.75 percent increase in undergraduate tuition, dining and housing rates and student activity fee will increase by 2 percent and 2.1 percent respectively for the 2016-17 academic year, according to the University. This marks the first housing and dining fees increase in  four years.

“Housing and dining rates have remained flat for the past three years in order to help maintain costs associated with financial aid,” said Karen Brown, director of campus life marketing and communications. “[However,] in order to cover food and labor costs that continue to rise annually, we must increase our housing and dining rates.”

The revenue generated from the increase will be used to support programs such as ‘Menus of Change’ — a movement that was adopted in the 2014-15 academic year in order to reduce waste and increase the amount of produce served in the dining halls, according to Brown.

The student activity fee — which will increase from $236 to $241 —  which is paid by every undergraduate to fund the University’s byline-funded organizations such as Slope Day Programming Board and Cornell EMS, according to Matthew Stefanko ’16, the Student Assembly vice president of finance.

“This year, a moderate increase was suggested to both track inflation and, more significantly, support the increase in student organizations that are registered with the SAFC,” Stefanko said. “The growth will allow organizations like the Women’s Resource Center and Cornell Environmental Collaborative to substantially increase their programming and services to the undergraduate community.”

Knuth said there is no relationship between the increase in tuition rate and the University’s recent decision to pursue need-aware admissions policies for international and undocumented students.