BREAKING: Board of Trustees approves tuition increase by 5 percent each year for the next two years
Financial aid will increase, housing and dining fees to go up
The American University board of trustees approved an increase in undergraduate tuition by 5 percent for the next two years, the University announced in an email to the AU community Tuesday afternoon.
The tuition increase will be accompanied by an additional $5 million to the University’s financial aid pool. According to Provost Peter Starr, the average student financial aid will increase by 9 percent.
For the next two years, graduate student tuition will increase by 3 percent and Washington College of Law tuition will increase by 3.5 percent.
“The goal of our budgeting process is to advance our strategy as a university but to also excel in our mission of providing an outstanding educational experience for all of our students,” Bronté Burleigh-Jones, the University’s Chief Financial Officer, said during a student media briefing Monday.
Burleigh-Jones said the expected increase for undergraduates will average around $3,100.
Housing and dining prices will increase too. For the 2022-2023 academic year, housing will increase by 3 percent, and by 4.5 percent for 2023-2024. Burleigh-Jones said the increase is due to renovations to McDowell Hall and Leonard Hall that will happen in summer 2023. Dining prices will increase by 5 percent each year for the next two years as well to “keep pace with the growing costs.”
“As we start to make these renovations, having our increases reflect more of the marketplace because our increases have not kept pace with inflation over the period,” Burleigh-Jones said. “When we take a look at the rising cost of food and wage pressures we’ve actually realized some deficits in operating our dining services over the past several years.”
Marc Duber, chair of the board of trustees, said the board has taken steps to ensure that the increases to tuition are minimal.
“There needs to be changes made in a big picture world that hopefully can control this number and bring it down,” Duber said. “One of the things that President Burwell was most challenged about by coming into the higher ed space when she left the government was the repairs that higher ed needs, and trying to figure out how she could make a difference in the space in the long term, so we as a board recognize that this cannot continue.”
In 2017, the board of trustees approved a 4 percent increase in tuition for the following two fiscal years. As previously reported by The Eagle, if that increase were to continue, tuition would have reached $113,000 per year by 2040, according to former CFO Doug Kudravetz.
The 2022 increase comes after the board of trustees voted against increasing tuition for the current academic year, another historic first. For the 2020-2021 academic year, the board approved a 10 percent tuition discount due to the financial burden of the coronavirus pandemic on the AU community. The University lost over $100 million from the coronavirus pandemic, which was expected to impact its finances until the 2022 fiscal year.
“During the last fiscal year, we did realize a 100 million dollar shortage in our revenue side of the budget, so that is a consideration as we thought through this budget process,” Burleigh-Jones said. “It’s further exacerbated by living through the highest inflation rates that we’ve seen since the 1980s, those are some economic realities for us to consider as we move forward.”
AU relies heavily on tuition as a revenue source and has a comparably smaller endowment than several of its peer institutions. According to Starr, the University has begun to tackle this by focusing on its professional education endeavors, as well as the University’s Challenge Accepted fundraising campaign, which has raised $300 million of a $500 million goal so far. Despite this, inflation remains an issue for the University budget and will affect the University in the years to come.
“As a board, it’s not our job just to look at what’s happening today,” Duber said. “It’s looking at where the University will be five, 10, 20 years from now, and it is very much on the forefront of our minds.”
Correction: This article has been updated to correct inaccuracies in the housing cost increase due to summer 2023 renovations. A previous version of this article stated that this is the largest University tuition increase, but a larger one occurred in 2009.