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BREAKING: AU will not raise tuition next academic year for the first time

Administrators emphasize a continued focus on financial aid and student services

American University will not increase tuition or housing costs for the 2021-22 academic year, but it will stop offering its 10 percent tuition discount once the spring semester concludes, President Sylvia Burwell and University leadership wrote in a Monday email. 

Tuition and housing costs will return to originally published rates for the 2021 fiscal year for undergraduate, graduate and Washington College of Law students. Meal plans will increase by 3.5 percent, except for the Eagle Bucks only plan, which will stay the same, according to Vice President and Chief Communications Officer Matthew Bennett. The move is part of an unprecedented one-year fiscal budget as opposed to AU’s normal two-year fiscal plan. While the fiscal year 2022 budget will be reviewed by the Board of Trustees during its March meeting, Burwell emphasized a focus on students for these changes.

“This decision supports our students and families and contributes to our long-term commitment to diversifying revenue and expanding access to higher education,” Burwell wrote. 

In 2019, the Board of Trustees voted to increase tuition by 3 percent in fiscal years 2020 and 2021.

In an email to The Eagle, AUSG President Eric Brock said that while he thinks this will benefit students in the short-term, it should not have taken a pandemic for the University to stop increasing tuition.

“While tuition may not be raised this next academic year, there's no indication that the University won't continue down the path of increasing tuition the year following,” Brock wrote. “We don't thank landlords for not increasing rent. We certainly don't thank Trustee members for not increasing our tuition.”

During a Monday press briefing, Fanta Aw, the vice president of campus life and inclusive excellence, emphasized that financial aid remains a central priority for the University and, despite the other changes, will not be reduced.  

“It is incredibly important for us that financial aid, students support services and those key elements continue to be robust in order to meet our students’ needs for the students who are here now and for the students who are coming,” Aw said.

Aw said that student activity fees have not been finalized and will depend on conversations with Student Government, Graduate Leadership Council and administrators. A decision on the U-Pass Program has also not been reached, but Bennett said that the University is in continuing conversation with WMATA.

Bennett said that some expense mitigation measures will continue into the fall, including the faculty and staff hiring freeze. However, the University plans to halt University-wide furloughs and resume University-matching contributions to employee retirement plans and the faculty merit pool as long as the enrollment projections stay on track, according to Bennett.

AU’s next two-year fiscal plan will now line up with the fourth and fifth years of its five-year plan, allowing the University flexibility to invest in its priorities and adapt to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Burwell wrote. 

The 2022 fiscal year will begin on July 1, 2021. 

This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.

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