Maryam Zafar / Sun Staff Writer

Aggregated from the University's published budget planning documents, this graph reflects the annual percent change in tuition for the endowed colleges.

February 11, 2019

Cornell Introduces Smallest Recent Tuition Increase — $6 Less Than Last Year’s Hike

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Rising seniors who receive no financial aid will have had their tuition costs rise 11.5 percent since they committed to Cornell.

Cornell will raise tuition for both endowed and land-grant colleges by 3.6 percent for the upcoming academic year, the University announced today, the lowest proportional tuition increase in years. The rise — $1,966 for endowed colleges and $1,316 for land-grant schools — is 6 dollars less than last year’s increase.

Provost Michael Kotlikoff said in an interview Sunday that students receiving University financial aid will see “no net increase” in tuition owed next year, even as the sticker price increases.

The Board of Trustees approved the budget bump on Feb. 1 at its meeting in New York City, which convened at the medical college and which President Martha E. Pollack attended.

Cornell’s 3.6 percent increase in tuition compares to a 5 percent jump for Brown University and a 3.8 percent hike for Yale University. Cornell’s cost of attendance — including housing and dining — will equal $71,796 for students in endowed colleges and $53,126 for New York residents in a land-grant college.

The University practices “need-blind” admissions for domestic students, Kotlikoff said, but is pouring roughly $2 million into initiatives to boost socioeconomic diversity by encouraging lower-income students to apply. One way to do this is to make it easier for undecided, financially challenged students to choose Cornell by offering competitive aid packages, he said.

“We’re not socioeconomically diverse,” Kotlikoff said of the undergraduate study body, 55 percent of whom do not receive Cornell grant aid. “We don’t look like the rest of the country and that’s why we’re trying to do whatever we can to try and improve that socioeconomic balance.”

A university’s “yield rate” shows what proportion of students who are offered spots choose to attend that school. Cornell has a yield rate that fluctuates between about 55 and 75 percent, Kotlikoff said; that rate is stratified by income quintiles, but the provost did not share those specific yield values stratified by income with The Sun.

“Our yields in every socioeconomic status in every socioeconomic class is above 55 percent,” Kotlikoff said. “And it goes up above 75 percent in some. We continue to have very high yields and we’re being very selective; I just want to make the point.”

Cornell had the sixth highest yield among Ivy League universities last year.

Maryam Zafar / Sun Staff Writer

Cornell had the sixth highest yield among Ivy League universities last year.

Other Ivy League universities have higher yield rates than Cornell. “I think about Cornell as the most democratic Ivy,” Kotlikoff said.

Kotlikoff said students have a voice in the budgetary process, in part because of the two student trustees who sit on the Board and because of presentations that he said he gave to the Student Assembly.

Neither Dustin Liu ’19, the undergraduate trustee, nor Manisha Munasinghe grad, graduate student trustee, sit on the Board of Trustees’ finance committee.

“That’s where they go really, really in-depth over those numbers,” Munasinghe said, noting that while they are allowed to attend finance committee meetings, they had other meetings scheduled at the same time.

Cornell’s tuition has climbed every spring for at least a decade. Last year, tuition increased by 3.75 percent over the previous $52,612 figure.

The cost of an on-campus double room in a residential hall will increase to $9,152 per year, according to Kotlikoff — the same 3.25 percent increase as dining costs.

Looking forward, the University has big plans for its budget, Kotlikoff said, adding that many costs will continue to increase for Cornell in the coming years. He highlighted mental healthcare spending over the last three years and Title IX litigation as costs that have grown recently.

Cornell’s largest source of revenue is students’ tuition, according to Kotlikoff. The biggest cost will continue to be staff and faculty salaries, wages and benefits, on which the University spent 55.1 percent of its budget last year.

Cornell currently employs 1,679 faculty members and 8,392 staff members. A 2016 survey conducted by Cornell’s Human Resources department found that 46 percent of Cornell employees “did not feel fairly compensated” for the work they perform.

Kotlikoff said the anticipated operating budget for the Ithaca campus for the upcoming fiscal year is about $2.06 billion, smaller than Cornell’s operating budget last year, which was projected to be $2.3 billion.

This reflected a net budget surplus that was “about the same,” as this year’s, Kotlikoff said.

Other future expenditures will require the University to take out a loan.

“North Campus will be built on debt that the University is taking to be able to build that housing,” Kotlikoff said, describing North Campus Expansion Plan costs that he projected at around $250 million.

With 2,000 new freshman and sophomore beds, Cornell will grow its undergraduate population by 900 total students, whose tuition payments will help pay off the project’s 30-year loan term, Kotlikoff said.

Cornell has already borrowed some money for the project — less than $50 million — to “get going,” Kotlikoff said, while the University shops around for the best lending strategy.

Kotlikoff also confirmed Sunday night that the same summer earnings expectation — staggered based on class year — will remain in place this upcoming year despite a petition that earned hundreds of signatures from students.

Kotlikoff did acknowledge frustration with steep growth rates seen across higher education.

“I think the rate of growth of costs [in] our Universities — it is a problem,” he said.