Average total cost of WU to top $50k

Tuition for 2009-10 increases 4.4 percent

| Senior News Editor

For the first time, the average cost of Washington University’s tuition, room and board will exceed $50,000 next year, according to a University announcement.

Undergraduate tuition for the 2009-2010 school year will be $37,800, an increase of $1,600—or 4.4 percent—from last year’s figure of $36,200.

With an increase of four percent in room and board for next year, and a rise in the cost of the average meal plan of three percent, the total average cost of an undergraduate education for a student living on campus will be $50,947.

The cost of a double room on campus will rise from an average of $7,750 to $8,061 and the average meal plan will rise from $3,904 to $4,022. In addition, next year’s student activities fee will be $378, an increase of 4.4 percent. The health fee will remain at $686.

University Provost Edward Macias cited the uncertain economy as the reason for the increase.

“We’re in a situation that is, economically, quite different from last year,” Macias said. “All our revenue streams are constrained at the present time. How long the country is going to be in this recessionary period isn’t clear, and how that’s going to affect the University over a longer period of time isn’t clear either. We’re trying to constrain costs as best we can.”

While the economy may be experiencing a widespread downturn, the rise in University tuition is consistent with changes in past years and is lower than last year’s increase of 4.9 percent.

Last year’s increase was in line with the Jan. 2008 rate of inflation of 4.2 percent. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, average college tuition also kept pace with this past year’s inflation rate.

In addition, the Chronicle reported that the average tuition for private colleges rose to $25,143. While that figure is lower than the University’s tuition, it represents an increase of almost 6 percent.

The increase at the University comes in the wake of a November announcement by Chancellor Mark Wrighton that the University’s endowment dropped by 25 percent, from $5.66 billion to $4.22 billion. In a letter to students and parents, Macias emphasized the role of the endowment in financing students’ education at the University.

“Tuition is the largest source of operating revenue for the University schools with undergraduate programs, but covers less than two-thirds of the actual cost of educating a student, with the remaining coming from gifts, endowment income and grants,” he said

Last year, the reason Macias gave for the increase related to the University’s growing efforts in sustainability and environmental research. While no major cuts have been proposed for the sustainability budget, the economic downturn has forced the University to scale back, postpone or cancel many of its projects.

The letter also mentioned the effect of the economic downturn on on financial aid and reaffirmed the University’s commitment to helping students complete their education. Macias said that the tuition increase will go toward financial aid and that the University is working to raise more endowment funds to help students in need.

“The top priority in fundraising is financial aid,” he said. “We are continuing to invest in our fundraising capabilities so we can add more financial aid endowment. Different families have different abilities to pay. Supposing you didn’t raise tuition as much, you wouldn’t have as much money to pay for financial aid. Your immediate students would not be able to support even the current tuition.”

The cost of tuition at the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences rose 4.4 percent alongside undergraduate tuition, also to $37,800.

While the price increase disappointed students, it surprised few.

“I guess it’s something that I’ve kind of come to expect,” senior Charles Clark said. “As everything else gets more expensive, the school can’t really expect to keep costs constant, so it’s just natural that it’d increase. It stinks, but it’s sort of just one of those things that just happens.”

Sophomore Susan Hill, however, said that the increase concerns her because of the impact it will have on those families who do not qualify for financial aid.

“I do feel like it makes it less and less accessible for people who are in the middle class who don’t qualify for complete financial aid and can only get a little bit,” she said. “I think that could have an impact on the general demographic of our school.”

With additional reporting by Puneet Kollipara and Perry Stein