Helen Hu / Sun Graphic Designer

Cornell's tuition has been increasing every year for the last ten years.

February 27, 2018

Cornell Raises Undergraduate Tuition by 3.75 Percent for Third Year in a Row

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Cornell University announced on Monday that its Board of Trustees voted one month ago to raise undergraduate tuition by nearly $2,000 for the 2018-2019 year. The board also decided to increase financial aid funding and raise the cost of housing, meal plans and students’ health fee.

The board approved the parameters at its closed Jan. 27 meeting in New York, but Cornell did not release the new sticker prices — $54,584 for undergraduate tuition, $36,564 for New Yorkers enrolled in the contract colleges — to the public until Monday, and many of the details remain under wraps. The University revealed the changes in the Cornell Chronicle, which is run by the University.

This is the third year in a row that undergraduate tuition has increased by 3.75 percent. The University bylaws note that the Board of Trustees may increase the tuition and all fees “at any time and without prior notice.”

About half of Cornell undergraduate students pay the full price of tuition and room and board, Cornell said last year. The full, $2.3-billion operating budget for Ithaca’s campus will need to be approved by the board in May.

The trustees also approved a 3.25-percent increase in the housing rate — from $8,564 to $8,842 for a double-occupancy room — as well as a 2.75-percent increase in the price of a meal plan, from $5,766 to $5,924 for the next academic year. The health fee will increase from $358 to $370.

Provost Michael Kotlikoff, who was quoted in the Cornell Chronicle release but did not respond to an interview request on Monday, said in the Chronicle that the $10 million increase in undergraduate financial aid — to a total of $265 million — “augments Cornell’s commitment to increasing the socio-economic diversity of its student body.”

Kotlikoff is quoted by the Chronicle as saying that most students who are receiving financial aid will not see their net tuition cost increase.

The Cornell Chronicle release includes many claims about what the budget supports — “enhancement of the educational experience for Cornell students through increasing experiential and engaged learning, evidence-based teaching, innovative uses of technology, and curricular advances such as the gateway courses initiative” — without giving any evidence or figures.

Susan Kelley, who is listed as the author of the Cornell Chronicle release, declined to answer questions about whether she had seen the budget planning documents, none of which have been publicly released.

Rebecca Vali, a Cornell spokesperson, said Cornell would only be sharing the overall budget parameters at this time, which include building the University’s capacity to invest in key academic priorities, ensuring sufficient and predictable budgets for academic units, increasing socioeconomic diversity of the student body and lowering the total endowment payout to below 5 percent.

Tuition rates for professional master’s degree programs vary by program but none increased more than 3.75 percent, Cornell said. There will no increase in tuition for doctoral and research master’s degree students, Cornell said, the ninth year in a row with no increase. The nine-month stipend rate for graduate students who have fellowships or teaching or research assistantships is increasing 2.5 percent to $26,426.

Kotlikoff is quoted by the Cornell Chronicle as saying that the budget includes an “increased investment in faculty recruitment in Ithaca” and “cross-campus collaboration and programing” that will “preserve and enhance our stature.” The release does not provide any more information about the increased investment or mention it again.

Robert Harrison, the chair of the board, and Joanne DeStefano, the executive vice president and chief financial officer, also either declined to comment or did not respond to requests.

Harrison told The Sun last year that, “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.”

“It is likely to increase each year,” he said last year of the tuition.“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.”