At their regular meeting February 8, the Board of Managers approved a 3.9% increase in total student fees for the 2013-2014 school year, bringing the cost of attendance up to $59,236.
Except for last year’s increase of 3.5%, this year’s rate is one of the lowest the College has seen in years, and about on par with increases at peer institutions, said Vice President of Finance Michael Casel.
At Swarthmore, total student charges went up by 4.7% last year, or $55,750.
The rising cost of tuition and fees is nothing new. The last several decades have shown rapidly rising costs for higher education institutions across the board. Those increases have been smaller in recent years, according to the College Board.
Only about one-third of full-time students pay the full published tuition price with no grant assistance, but the prices these students pay have increased very rapidly. In addition, the nontuition expenses associated with going to college continue to rise, and grant aid is rarely sufficient to meet those costs. (Trends in College Pricing, 2012)
As tuition nears the $60,000 mark, options are limited for what administrators can do to constrain costs. What’s left in the toolbox, says Casel, is increasing financial aid as costs go up to maintain affordability.
But with the no-loan policy costing the College around $1.7 million a year, administrators are engaged in an ongoing discussion about the policy’s sustainability.
The College has three main sources of revenue – gifts, student charges and the endowment. Compensation for employees is one of its largest costs.
“We talk about trade-offs a lot when we put the budget together – obviously we can only raise charges by a certain amount before it becomes extremely onerous,” said Casel. “And we’ve had very small increases in compensation the last several years – below inflation.”