Tuition to go up next year

February 3rd, 2011

John Carroll University undergraduate tuition will increase 4.8 percent for the 2011-2012 school year. The increase brings the cost for full-time undergraduate tuition to $30,660. The current school year saw a tuition increase of 4.7 percent from the previous school year.

Vice President for Finance Richard Mausser, explained that many schools have a history of raising tuition due to supporting the workforce.

“Most of the costs associated with running a university are labor-intensive related,” he said. “Here at John Carroll, roughly 65 to 70 percent of our total costs are compensation-related. If there are to be increases given to those individuals, that obviously drives part of the tuition increase.”

Health benefits, insurance and day-to-day operation costs also factor into the equation. A dramatic increase that Mausser continually sees is keeping current with the University’s technological needs. Constant upgrades to the University’s wireless systems, and bandwidth draw needed to support changing technology that students bring with them to school, are costly.

“That’s a huge level of consumption that I’m not sure is always recognized,” Mausser said.

He explained that the costs of running an institution are rising faster than the ability to recoup them, at least through tuition.

“We’re a tuition-dependent institution,” Mausser said. “Most of our revenue comes from tuition, room and board.”

Three other sources of revenue – investment return, gifts and grants and government funding – have suffered within the last three years.

“Three years ago, we were getting [a] significant amount of state aid for students,” Mausser said. “Next year, it essentially is gone.”

The endowment has not recovered from the economic meltdown of two years ago, and fundraising continues to be a challenge in the not-for-profit world because foundations and donors are feeling the same financial pinch.

“All of that in the aggregate kind of rolls into driving tuition rates,” Mausser said.

Even though fundraising has been somewhat challenging, Mausser said the University has bucked the trend.

“We’re very fortunate in that we have [a] very loyal and strong donor base,” he said. “Our giving was actually up last year.”

Regardless, undergraduate students will see an increase in tuition, room and board and fees. Along with the $30,660 in tuition per year, room and board fees will jump $400 to $9,150. The Student Activity Fee and Student Health Services Fee will stay at $400 and $250, respectively, while the Student Technology Fee will jump $50 to $400. Altogether, the total cost will jump $1,860, or 4.8 percent, to $40,860 per year.

Mausser said that a trade-off exists in order for JCU to continue providing a quality educational experience.

“To cut back on dollars in order to balance a budget or keep a tuition rate low would adversely affect the quality from whatever perspective you want to measure it and we choose not to do that,” he said. “In one sense, we need to raise tuition in order to maintain quality. That’s what we’ve done continuously, and it shows in our students.”

Vice President of Enrollment Brian Williams said that JCU is careful with increasing tuition because of the effect it has on students’ families.

“My advocacy for students and the planning that goes into it is, ‘What is the least increase we can have that will not impact students, that will ensure enrollment, but ensure we have the resources to run the institution?’” he said. “And it’s the balance of all those perspectives that is difficult to find and is not taken lightly.”

Williams explained that anytime a family has a concern about financial aid, they should contact the financial aid staff.

“This is the time of year where current students should be thinking about that,” he said. “It’s the new year – parents are thinking about filing taxes now. So filing your taxes and filing your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) should go hand-in-hand.”

The University’s goal is to begin awarding returning students with financial aid awards by early March, right in time for registration for the 2011 fall semester.

According to Williams, there has not been an explicit increase in the University’s financial aid budget. Regardless, the financial aid staff is committed to making sure students stay at John Carroll, he said.

“[For] families whose situations have changed, we do have an appeals process and a financial aid structure that helps students stay enrolled,” Williams explained. There are also other ways include institutional aid, borrowing opportunities, and outside scholarships.

Williams said there is a link between setting tuition and enrollment numbers.

“So to the extent that you don’t reach your freshman class, we look at the overall enrollment to help meet the budget and the goals of the institution,” he said.

However, according to Williams, the University is in position to meet its goal of 700 students in the class of 2015. Through Feb. 1, Williams said the University is 7 to 9 percent ahead in applications sent compared to last year and 15 percent ahead in offers of acceptance extended to potential freshman class members.

He said JCU has been committed to cost-saving measures, but a fine line exists to make sure essential services are still provided to students and that enrollment is not hurt.

“If we’re not staying a great institution and students leave, and students don’t choose this school because we’re not offering what everyone else is, that’s a tough line to find the solution to tuition by cutting costs because then you’re impacting the student experience in ways that we don’t want to,” Williams said.