April 3, 2007

College increases tuition 5.4 percent

The total cost for one year of study in the College, including room and board, will increase to $47,007 next year, up 5.4 percent from this year’s total of $44,613. The Board of Trustees authorized the increase on March 1 during its annual winter quarter meeting.

Undergraduate tuition for the 2007—2008 school year will increase by 5.5 percent to $35,169 from $33,336 this year, while room and board costs will increase by five percent to $11,139 from $10,608. Miscellaneous fees, including health and student activity fees, will increase by 4.5 percent to $699 from $669.

“We try to balance the needs of the University against the available sources of revenue,” said Donald Reaves, the University’s chief financial officer. “Our major sources of revenue are tuition and fees that we collect from students, and income from the endowment. We try to strike a balance between these two sources and at the same time try to raise enough money to make programmatic enhancements.”

The 5.4-percent increase is more than double the current rate of inflation. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Consumer Price Index rose 2.4-percent between February 2005 and February 2006.

Last year, the Board of Trustees authorized a 5.3-percent increase in total annual costs, compared with a 5-percent increase for both the 2005-—2006 and 2004—2005 school years.

“The net rise, including both tuition and room and board, is no more pronounced than in previous years,” said Provost Thomas Rosenbaum.

According to Rosenbaum, the increase in tuition will be accompanied by an increase in financial assistance for students, although he declined to specify the amount by which institutional financial aid packages will increase. Approximately 56 percent of students in the College currently receive financial aid.

“The financial aid budget will increase next year,” Reaves said. “It is essentially indexed to the tuition, so if tuition increases by 5 or 5.5 percent, then the financial aid budget will increase by a similar amount.”

Among major institutions, George Washington University (GWU) ranks as the most expensive university in the country, according to statistics provided by the Chronicle of Higher Education. Earlier this year, GWU announced that it will raise its tuition next year by 3.8 percent to $39,210. Other schools that surpassed Chicago in the cost of tuition during the 2006-—2007 school year include Vassar, Wesleyan, Brown, Johns Hopkins, Tufts, Amherst, Penn, and Columbia.

The Board of Trustees’s decision comes at a time when colleges across the country are announcing increases in tuition and other student costs for the 2007—2008 school year. The 5.4-percent increase in total annual cost is one of the highest among Chicago’s peer institutions. By comparison, both Harvard and Yale Universities raised their total annual costs by 4.5-percent to $45,620 and $45,000, respectively.

Peer institutions that have yet to announce tuition hikes for next year include Northwestern, MIT, Duke, CalTech, and Stanford, all of which are currently less expensive than U of C. The total annual cost for a Northwestern education this year, including room and board, is $43,822.

“We provide financial aid on a need-basis, so for those students who have demonstrated need, their cost may be offset,” Reaves said. “There will be some students whose cost may be completely offset, and other students who may see their cost rise even with financial aid.” Financial aid has become an absolute necessity for low- or middle-income students in the wake of continually increasing tuition rates.

“There has to be a point at which this year-to-year tuition increase stops,” said first-year Mohammad Haidar. “I had two friends in high school that also applied here that also got in, but their financial aid packages weren’t good enough and they were just like, ‘Screw this, I’m going to Michigan.’ It really is deterring a lot of students with high potential from coming here. If my financial aid package had been a little worse, I probably wouldn’t have come here either.”