February 14, 2017

Undergraduate Tuition to Rise 3.75 Percent, Endowed Colleges’ Sticker Price Now $52,612

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The Cornell Board of Trustees voted to increase the price of undergraduate tuition, housing contracts, meal plans and health fees for the 2017-2018 fiscal year, the University announced Monday.

The sticker price for undergraduate students enrolling in one of the endowed schools and for out-of-state students enrolling in a contract college will rise by $1,900 next year, from $50,712 to $52,612. New York State residents enrolled in one of the contract colleges will pay $1,274 more next year in tuition, totaling $35,242.

Robert Harrison ’76, chair of the Board of Trustees, told The Sun that Cornell is more affordable now, in absolute terms and in inflation-adjusted dollars, than it was 20 years ago for students who receive financial aid.

“When we talk about this at the Board, the discussion among the trustees is about one thing — how to maintain the affordability of Cornell to those who we admit on a need-blind basis,” Harrison said. “The whole concept of ‘any person, any study’ — any person in particular, in this case — is really paramount in our thinking.”

Mirroring the increase implemented for the 2016-2017 academic year, tuition will rise by 3.75 percent next year. The rate of inflation, meanwhile, was less than 1 percent between July 2015 and July 2016, according to data from the U.S. Federal Reserve.

The new increase means that in the 10-year period between the 2007-2008 academic year and 2017-2018, undergraduate tuition for the endowed colleges will have increased by $18,000, and tuition for New York State residents enrolled in the contract colleges will have increased more than $16,000.

Harrison said increasing the sticker price of a world class research university like Cornell allows the burden to be placed on those who can afford the full price and noted that the financial aid budget has grown twice as fast as tuition.

“We’re going to invest based on what we think makes sense — to put the rover on Mars and to create a great living campus like North Campus and West Campus and to hire the … best professors in the world and to grow and transform Cornell in dramatic ways like with Cornell Tech,” Harrison said, referring to the Cornell NYC Tech campus on Roosevelt Island opening later this year.

“Those are all very very expensive propositions,” he continued. “I think if we want to accomplish some of the great things that we want to accomplish, we’re not going to tie ourselves down to an inflation-based growth metric.”

The Trustees approved the 3.75 percent undergraduate tuition increase at their late-January meeting in New York City, but the hike was not announced until Monday in the Cornell Chronicle, which is managed by University Relations.

Harrison and George Lowery, managing editor of the Chronicle, deferred questions about the two-week period between the decision and the announcement to media relations. A media relations spokesman did not return an email requesting comment on Monday evening.

About half of Cornell undergraduate students pay the full price of both tuition and room and board, according to the University, while 45 percent of undergraduates received financial aid in the 2016-2017 academic year.

“We’re very, very conscious of trying to have people who can afford to pay the full … sticker price pay it, but at the very same time — without any question — have those who cannot [pay the full price] receive as much financial aid as they need,” Harrison said.

The Trustees increased housing contract rates by 3.5 percent to $8,564 for a double-occupancy room. Trustees also voted to raise the cost of a full meal plan to $5,766 next year, an increase of 2.5 percent, and raised the student health fee from $350 to $358.

“Cornell is continuing to align the rate of tuition revenue growth to that of its carefully managed expenses,” Joanne DeStefano, executive vice president and chief financial officer, told the Chronicle. DeStefano did not respond to a request for comment made to her executive assistant.

Tuition for doctoral candidates will stay the same for the eighth straight year at $29,500 for the endowed fields and $20,800 for the contract college graduate fields. The minimum nine-month stipend for graduate teaching assistants, research assistants and fellows will increase 2.5 percent to $25,780.

Cornell’s operating cost will likely continue to increase as long as the Board of Trustees continues to grow the University and push for innovation, Harrison said.

“It is likely to increase each year,” he said. “That is the norm that we are expecting unless we scale back on our ambitions, which I don’t have any interest in doing and I don’t think Cornellians have any interest in doing.”

Josh Girsky ’19 contributed research to this article.