Why did Cornell choose to raise tuition at a time when many are experiencing stiff financial hardship; why is the University’s financial aid lower than all of its Ivy League peers? Amid concerns about the true value of a college degree in the era of “Zoom University,” School of Industrial and Labor Relations Prof. Ronald Ehrenberg, who studies how institutions of higher education operate, explained the nuances behind some of these questions.
From now until Nov. 1, Cornell students will have another place to complain about their college experience besides their friend group chats and social media. The New York State Senate is hosting a series of open public forums across the state to collect comments for future higher education legislation.
Presidential candidate and Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) — a staunch advocate for cutting tuition costs — congratulated the University in a Facebook post for “doing what once seemed like an impossible dream.”
What followed the Board of Trustees announcement about the the 2020 fiscal year budget and the corresponding 3.6 percent tuition hike? An implicit announcement aimed at members of the Class of 2020: their tuition has increased 11.5 percent since they committed to the Red. The University boasted that this tuition rise was the smallest in recent years. This year’s increase comes in at $6 less than last year’s raise — that’s a single venti coffee with a shot of espresso at Cornell Dining, to put things in perspective. Maybe Cornellians should consider themselves lucky.
I am a proud Cornellian. As a second-semester senior, I can easily say that I have experienced the roller coaster of ups and downs that virtually every Cornellian before me has felt. Regardless of what highs and lows this school has brought me to, I truly believe that this school, and the students in it, are a testament to what an elite education can do for both the individual and society as a whole. Cornell is, quite simply, a remarkable institution, with brilliant professors and students. Unfortunately, the university’s administration is a great stain on an otherwise incredible and noble history. In past columns, I have described the problems with the administration’s compulsive spending and inattention to the needs of lower-income students.
The important number for the university’s financial stability is actually net tuition revenue: undergraduate tuition minus financial aid. In other words, how much money does Cornell get from tuition after it pays out financial aid. If net tuition revenue is not growing as fast as costs, the university will eventually have to make some cuts to spending or find ways to increase revenue.
“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.”
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.