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Cornell will raise tuition, as approved prior to the coronavirus crisis.

July 6, 2020

Cornell Maintains Tuition Increase for Upcoming School Year

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Even the coronavirus crisis won’t stop Cornell tuition from climbing this year.

The University will raise tuition by 3.6 percent for the upcoming school year, sticking to the sticker price approved before the public health and economic crises. Cornell’s tuition rates have been rising each year for at least a decade, The Sun previously reported.

Students who receive no financial aid will pay about $2,000 more than they did last school year, whether they return to Ithaca or complete their classes online from home. The tuition hike the Board of Trustees approved in January amounts to the same percentage increase as last year.

About half of Cornell undergraduates pay the full price of tuition, room and board, according to the University’s most recent data. Students who plan to enroll this year will pay tuition now set to $58,586 for endowed colleges and $39,244 for New York residents enrolled in contract colleges.

As tuition rises steadily each year, the board has also continued to raise financial aid funding. Now, as Cornell plans to meet rising financial aid demands, Provost Michael Kotlikoff said this commitment and other costs meant the sticker price set before the pandemic will remain the same.

With the increased aid, the University projects $210 million in pandemic-related losses for the Ithaca and Cornell Tech campuses during the coming fiscal year, Kotlikoff and President Martha E. Pollack said in a Thursday statement. For the most recent fiscal year, Cornell incurred $45 million in losses.

Kotlikoff added that with extra campus safety precautions, operational costs will also increase, while instructional costs “are not diminished, as compared to pre-pandemic conditions.”

“Making these commitments is neither an easy nor an inexpensive endeavor, especially as we remain determined to meet the financial aid needs of our students,” Kotlikoff told The Sun in an email. “Students facing changed financial circumstances are welcome to contact the Office of Financial Aid for a revised aid analysis.”

Even with increased financial aid, many students are pushing against the price of an online college experience.

Class-action lawsuits calling for tuition refunds mounted during the spring semester, including at Cornell, as students argued that distance learning could not replace in-person instruction.

Now, some Ivy League colleges are responding to these demands, their tuition policies as disparate as their reopening plans. Princeton announced Monday it will cut tuition 10 percent for students on campus and those studying remotely. Meanwhile, Harvard said it will keep tuition rates the same, while it plans to welcome less than half of undergraduates back to campus for an online-only semester. The Harvard financial aid office will calculate food and housing into aid awards for students studying remotely.

Other students are questioning whether paying for a college experience without lecture halls and packed libraries is worth it at all.

Some Cornell students have already decided to stay home this fall to avoid paying thousands for room and board while largely restricted to virtual clubs and classes. Others who can afford to take a gap year or a leave of absence have decided they would rather not pay steep tuition (one of the University’s largest revenue sources) in the face of heavy restrictions and health concerns.

Policy decisions have also left Cornell’s international students, many who pay full tuition, stuck weighing nearly impossible choices, facing potential removal from the U.S. if Cornell transitions exclusively to online learning in the fall, the Trump administration announced Monday.

Travel restrictions and growing uncertainty also mean many international students won’t return to Ithaca this fall, and those able to enroll in the Study Away program will pay their regular Cornell tuition, despite enrolling at local universities while under heightened financial strain.

As students weigh their fall semester options, Michelle Benedict-Jones, University treasurer and interim bursar, said in an email on Monday that Cornell will delay issuing July billing statements for fall tuition, room and board until August to give families time to make a decision.