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Tuition to increase by 4 percent annually for next two years

Board of Trustees approves budget for fiscal years 2018, 2019

Tuition to increase by 4 percent annually for next two years

Vice President for Communication Teresa Flannery, Provost Scott Bass, Chairman of the Board of Trustees Jack Cassell and CFO Doug Kudravetz answer questions following the Board's vote to raise tuition in March. 

The AU Board of Trustees voted Friday to increase tuition by 4 percent for fiscal years 2018 and 2019, which covers academic years 2017-2018 and 2018-2019. The increase follows the trend of previous budgets, though the percentage increase is higher than the budget for fiscal years 2016 and 2017, which were 3 percent and 3.5 percent, respectively.

In addition to the tuition increase, the cost of on-campus housing will increase by 1 percent each year for two years and the cost of meal plans will increase by 2 percent each year for two years. Overall student attendance cost will increase by 3.3 percent, said AU Chief Financial Officer and co-chair of the University Budget Committee Doug Kudravetz. 

However, additional student course fees, such as lab course fees, have been eliminated with the new budget, which is a total student cost of approximately $1,000,000 per year, Kudravetz said. In accordance with the rise in tuition, financial aid funding will also increase by 4 percent. 

Board of Trustees Chairman Jack Cassell said that several factors came into play during the budget process, beginning with the rising inflation rate. Other initiatives, including a capital fundraising campaign, raises for faculty and staff and added funding for student services such as the new Reinventing the Student Experience (RiSE) program, led to the decision to increase the budget.

“Inflation alone is a little over 2 percent, so if [students] took that into consideration, along with considering that the faculty needs to get raises, just those two things alone are a significant amount of our budget, and that we’re increasing financial aid as a result of these,” Cassell said. “If you just take just those three factors without putting RiSE and the capital campaign into it, then I think it tells the story.”

Student Government President Devontae Torriente said he is concerned about the larger debt students will face with the tuition hike. 

“I think my role [in the budget process] is in making it clear to the University why students aren’t happy with the tuition increase,” Torriente said. “Students are in debt, a lot of freaking debt.”

The new tuition price for the 2018 fiscal year will be $45,808 per year for undergraduates taking between 12.5 and 17 credit hours both semesters, said Director of Public Relations Kelly Alexander. The tuition price for the 2019 fiscal year will be $47,640 per year, meaning students will pay $1,700 more a year before financial aid with this new budget, Kudravetz said.

The total operating budget for both fiscal years will be $1.4 billion. The operating budget for the 2018 fiscal year will be $683,000,000, and will increase to $718,000,000 for fiscal year 2019. 

A breakdown of the budget changes

The newly passed budget covers all of AU’s expenses for the next two fiscal years. Those expenses include everything from faculty salaries to library databases. Tuition and fees are the University’s primary source of revenue and will comprise 81 percent of total revenue in the new budget, Kudravetz said. The other 19 percent of revenue is composed of made up of residence halls, auxiliary, WAMU, investment, financial gifts and “other,” according to both the 2016 and 2017 fiscal revenue budget.

“In context, we’re acting on a recommendation from the University Budget Committee, and that budget committee was comprised of faculty, staff and students and they recommended a tuition increase of 4 to 5 percent,” Kudravetz said. “The board has approved the lower end of that range.”

Scott Bass, provost and co-chair of the University Budget Committee, said that a lot of student, faculty and staff priorities were met with this new budget, including diversity and inclusion programs, student services and salary raises for faculty and staff. The committee created a 15 point list about the priorities they recommended the new budget should meet in November 2016, the Eagle previously reported.  

“Indeed, having been through the process almost every item that was at the top of the list is part of this budget so there are definite, specific items that were concerns to students, that were concerns of the faculty and concerns of the staff,” Bass said.

Cassell and Kudravetz both said that part of the budget increase comes from an increase in funding for programs like student mental health services, diversity and inclusion and the RiSE program.

The Office of Campus Life, resident assistants and academic support services will receive an additional $300,000 for the first fiscal year, Kudravetz said. For library materials, the budget includes an additional $450,000 for the first fiscal year and another $400,000 for the second fiscal year. The total is $850,000.

“High priorities were given to the things that we heard from the students, in particular the students on the committee, such as the mental health services, counseling center, as well as additional funding for Title IX,” Kudravetz said. 

Traditionally, the tuition increase percentage and financial aid increase percentage are the same when approving the budget, Kudravetz said. 

“Every year as tuition goes up, we make sure it stays in line so the average pool of financial aid for all students is 29 percent of the total tuition,” Kudravetz said. 

How AU’s tuition costs compare to peer institutions

Compared to previous years, the percentage increase in tuition is higher.  For the 2015-2016 school year, the increase in tuition was 3.5 percent, in 2015-2016 the increase was 3 percent and in 2014-2015 it was 2.95 percent, the Eagle reported in March 2015.

“Even though 4 percent might sound like a lot, when we look at the total cost of tuition and total cost of attendance going up 3.3 percent, we think that’s comparably reasonable,” Kudravetz said. “We’ve seen other schools in that range of tuition increases of 4, 3.9 [percent].”

Kudravetz provided The Eagle a list of tuition costs among AU’s peer “competitor” institutions, which he said are other universities AU students commonly apply to, according to the Office of Enrollment. AU considers George Washington University, Georgetown University and John Hopkins University as peer institutions. AU was number 25 on the list of 30 in price, with school number 30 being lowest in price.

Compared to those other universities, AU’s 4 percent increase is on par with Georgetown’s tuition increase of 4 percent during the 2016-2017 school year. Undergraduates paid $49,968 in tuition for the 2016-2017 academic year, as compared to $48,048 the year before, The Hoya reported.

The George Washington University will increase tuition by 3.3 percent next academic year, The Hatchet reported. In Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University implemented a 3.5 percent tuition increase during the same year, the school reports.

Student leaders react to new budget

Though SG President Torriente said he is concerned about rising tuition costs, he said he was excited to see the new budget and how funds will be directed to support student services. 

“I think that with any tuition increase, there is also going to be an increase in support for student services so I’m excited about seeing where that money is going to go,” Torriente said.

SG Comptroller Shannon McDermott agreed with Torriente, stating that “some things students were pushing for are getting done with this budget.”

“I think there’s a lot of good things built into the budget that help students, but what I also will say is that while that’s the case, every percentage point that is added to the tuition is another [work] shift a student needs to take,” McDermott said.

An email will be sent out later next week summarizing the new budget to students with highlights, Vice President of Communication Terry Flannery said. The complete budget report will be sent to the campus community in April, Flannery said.

mcarrasco@theeagleonline.com


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