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Tuition continues to climb

February 23rd, 2012

John Carroll University’s undergraduate full-time tuition rate will increase 4.8 percent for the 2012-2013 school year, the second consecutive year the University has raised tuition by that percentage. The increase will bring tuition from $30,660 this year to $32,130 for next year.

Resident students will also see an increase in room and board, from $9,150 this year to $9,610 next year. Fees attached in addition to tuition, including those for health and wellness, technology and student activities, will stay the same at a combined $1,050.

In a letter sent to parents and guardians, JCU President, the Rev. Robert Niehoff, S.J. wrote that the University’s Board of Directors approved the increase at its December meeting.

“We weigh this decision against the overall needs of the University to ensure that we do not compromise the high-quality experience and education that all of our students have come to expect,” Niehoff wrote. “These increases are needed to improve upon the quality of our academic offerings, and support our faculty and staff in their work at the University. I assure you that we do not initiate these changes lightly.”

Vice President for Finance Richard Mausser said the increase will translate into a wage adjustment for faculty and, for the first time in four years, an increase for staff.

“We need to stay competitive,” Mausser said. “We’ve fallen behind, from a faculty perspective [in terms of compensation].”

The University’s endowment took a hit with the economic meltdown during the 2008-2009 school year. During the next two years, funding from the state – totaling over $3 million – was cut and federal aid was reduced. To make up for the outside aid losses, JCU increased its institutional aid to students beginning the next year, 2009-2010.

The 2008-2009 school year saw a 4 percent tuition increase from the previous year, and students experienced a 2.8 percent increase in 2009-2010.

“So what happened in those years is even those we gave a tuition rate increase, we effectively awarded more aid to students intuitional aid, to offset the impact of that because we thought it was going to be so great,” Mausser said. “And our concern […] is that if you lost $4,000 in state aid, and that’s what some students were getting, they wouldn’t be returning to campus. So we had a tuition increase, but effectively that got funneled in essence as a discount.”

During both the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 school years, to offset the increase in institutional aid, JCU implemented approximately $4 million in expense reductions. The areas that produced the largest savings included restructuring medical benefits ($800,000), a two-week scheduled salary and work reduction for staff and administrators ($750,000) and a voluntary staff and administrative separation program for employees looking to leave JCU ($600,000). Other reductions included involuntary layoffs ($300,000), shutting down the former Bohannon Science Center ($200,000) and reducing part-time summer student hires ($50,000).

Faculty wage freezes were also included during the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 school years. Tuition increased 4.7 percent for the 2010-2011 school year.

The tuition increase for the 2011-2012 school year primarily helped restore staff wage levels back to 2009 levels and modestly increased faculty salaries.

“We need[ed] to take those steps to get us through that period of time,” Mausser said. “The increases that we’re making now in tuition are largely allowing us to gradually get back and build up some of the stuff that we’ve taken out that over the longer term will, in my mind, adversely affect the quality of the education.”

Mausser stressed three items JCU has not done to reduce costs. Many schools have hired more part-time faculty as a cost-saving measure, while JCU has not.

“We think that impairs the quality of an education,” Mausser added. “Is there a cost associated with [keeping more full-time faculty]? Absolutely.”

Except for minimal increases in first-year seminar, JCU has not increased its average class size. Mausser also said the University has neither reduced the number of offered class sections nor moved to an online teaching model.

In addition, JCU has not increased the average teaching load on its faculty, which is approximately three courses each semester, Mausser said.

“[Inreasing the teaching load] reduces cost, but it also increases the number of students that each faculty is supposed to be in touch [with],” Mausser added. “There’s not enough hours in a day to make that work.”

Compared to other private universities in Ohio, JCU ranks 11th  in cost in terms of tuition, fees, and room and board for this school year, according to U.S. News and World Report.

Oberlin College was the most expensive at $54,760 this year, while Franciscan University of Steubenville was the least, ranking 22nd at $28,320.

Based on data from the National Center for Educational Statistics, JCU’s net price has come down as well. Net price comes from subtracting the average amount of financial aid awarded from the total cost of attending JCU. During the 2009-2010 school year, the most recent statistical year available, the net cost to attend JCU was $21,850. That figure was $95 less than the net cost the previous year. Again, JCU was in the middle of the pack, ranking 12th, in terms of net price for private universities in Ohio.

Despite the rise in tuition, freshmen enrollment has been steadily increasing. After dipping from 792 freshmen in 2008 to 661 in 2009, the last two years have seen growth. In 2010, 702 freshmen enrolled at JCU and 744 enrolled in 2011, according to statistics from the John Carroll University 2011-12 Fact Book.

Vice President for Enrollment Brian Williams agreed with Mausser that the University has increased financial support for students in recent years.

“Families are understanding more each year the importance of filing the FAFSA [Free Application for Federal Student Aid], working with our financial aid staff and understanding that in choosing a school, it is not based solely on the listed tuition and fees. So few students pay that full amount,” Williams said via email. “Further, as the economy has been challenging the last few years, families are more discerning about choosing a school. And our enrollment growth the last few years is encouraging that families do see the value and worth in JCU. However, that does not mean that we are not sensitive to every family and their situation.”

Williams said that if current students need further assistance, he encourages them to file their FAFSA as soon as possible, utilize the financial aid appeal process and consider joining the University’s Tuition Payment Plan (TPP).

Further information is available at the JCU financial aid and tuition websites.