Aid to increase following tuition hike, finance chief says

In past, aid has increased at a higher rate than tuition, financial chief says

| Staff Reporter

Washington University’s most recent tuition increase of 4.2 percent, from $37,800 for the 2009-2010 academic year to $39,400 for the 2010-2011 academic year, is expected to be right on par with the rest of the nation’s universities.

Private colleges averaged a 4.3 percent increase, the smallest in 35 years, for the 2009-2010 academic year, whereas Wash. U.’s tuition increased by 4.4 percent.

According to Barbara Feiner, chief financial officer and vice chancellor for finance, the University usually announces its tuition increase before peer institutions, so no comparisons can yet be made.

“We usually compare our tuition with the rates of the top private research universities with which we have the most overlapping applications,” Feiner wrote in an e-mail to Student Life. “Among this group of 26 schools, our tuition for the current school year is right in the middle. I review this information with students annually at the Student Union Tuition Forum held every fall.”

Although increases in tuition can decrease the affordability of attending the University, Feiner noted that at times of tuition increases, the University increases financial aid for undergraduates.

“Student Financial Services takes the increase in tuition into consideration in the awarding of financial aid so the result of the tuition increase will be an increase in financial aid,” Feiner wrote. “Over the past two years the University has increased financial aid for undergraduate students by about 22 percent, which is far in excess of the tuition increases over that time.”

According to Feiner, financial aid was taken into substantial consideration of the tuition increase.

“Much of the increase in financial aid is a result of eliminating loans in financial aid packages for students whose family income is less than $60,000 as well as meeting the needs of families who have experienced reversals in their financial circumstances,” Feiner wrote.

Feiner cited increasing operating costs as the reason behind the tuition increase, saying that the economic downturn in recent years has affected budgeting more than the actual percentage increase of tuition. While the central administrative areas have focused on budgeting, the tuition has been increased to cover other costs.

“There are some expenses that continue to grow, such as the costs of updating classrooms and laboratories, health care costs for employees and the financial aid mentioned above,” Feiner wrote. “Other sources of income include the spending from the endowment and gifts, both of which are affected by the economic downturn, so there is even more reliance on tuition.”

While some students are worried about the tuition increase, they acknowledge the administration’s rationale for increasing the tuition and stressed the importance of strong financial aid as a way to keep people coming to Wash. U.

“I think it’s reasonable that they increased the tuition based on everything that’s going on economically,” senior Tedward Erker said. “If they didn’t increase financial aid with the tuition, it would be an issue.”

Sophomore Brendan Cook shared similar thoughts about the tuition increase.

“The tuition definitely is a lot higher than I would like it to be,” Cook said. “I don’t think the increase was too bad; it increased over an already high amount in this kind of economy when students are struggling to come up with that type of money.”

Cook, like Erker, also stressed the importance of increasing financial aid.

“As long as the increase in the amount of financial aid the University is willing to give out is at least proportional to the increase in the tuition, then it’s a justified increase,” Cook said. “If they increase it without providing aid at the same time, it will have negative effects and more people would be deterred from coming to Wash. U.”

Despite some concerns with high tuition costs, Feiner stressed the importance of maintaining the high standard of education the University stands by.

“Tuition is the largest source of revenue to support the budgets of the schools on the Danforth Campus,” Feiner wrote. “For the schools with undergraduate programs, tuition is almost two-thirds of the operating revenue.”

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