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Tuition for 2013-14 year set to rise

February 14th, 2013

John Carroll University’s full-time undergraduate tuition rate will increase 3.9 percent for the 2013-2014 school year to $33,330. The rate was $32,130 for this current school year.

In addition to the tuition hike, “room and board rates for next year’s resident students will vary based on the building, room type and amenities and meal plan chosen,” according to a letter written by JCU President, the Rev. Robert Niehoff, S.J. dated Feb. 8 and addressed to parents and guardians informing them of the increases.

A detailed breakdown of the cost of attendance for undergraduate students available on jcu.edu/tuition lists the room and board price at $10,040, which is the cost of a standard double room with a 14-plus meal plan (14 meals per week with 100 plus points).

However, with the renovation of Murphy Hall, students will have the option of living in triples next year for a lower rate. A full list of rates is available on jcu.edu/reslife.

Richard Mausser, the University’s vice president for finance, said the concept of pricing room and board differently based on the options chosen by students is called deferential pricing. He said that while the renovation of Murphy Hall is part of what motivated this change, most other universities already use this model, so JCU probably would have adopted it eventually.

“The Murphy project is going to be a different kind of housing stock than we have in place right now across-the-board. A double in there we cannot price the same as a double someplace else,” he said. “It’s going to force us in that situation anyway, so we wanted to get to that place now.”

He said this model makes more sense given the variations in quality of residence halls. For example, some of the residence halls are air-conditioned, and those rooms will cost more than those that are not.

The University raised tuition 4.8 percent for both last school year (2011-2012) and this school year. Full-time undergraduate tuition was $30,660 during the 2011-2012 school year.

Both the technology fee and health and wellness fees will go up $50, to $450 and $300, respectively. The Student Activity Fee will remain at $400 for next school year.

The combination of tuition and fees, without room and board, brings the total to $34,480 for full-time undergraduate students for next school year.

Students taking classes at the University this summer will pay $700 per credit hour, the same amount charged last year.

Mausser said the main priorities when determining tuition costs for each academic year are maintaining the quality of education and staying competitive. Things like maintenance, health care and the IT infrastructure are putting increasingly expensive demands on the school financially, and Mausser said he and his colleagues must carry out this “balancing act.”

Tuition is not the first place that the board turns when trying to cover these costs, he said. Mausser also said that the tuition increase by itself does not cover these costs.

“We have gone to virtually every one of our external vendors and either switched them or restructured deals with them to significantly reduce our cost base,” he said.

According to Mausser, the process involved with determining tuition raises is a complicated one. A main component of this is staying up-to-date with the tuition of schools similar to JCU, both geographically and academically.

“We have to be informed about what’s happening around us … It’s market-driven now,” Mausser said.

He emphasized that the University’s Board of Directors ultimately make the decision on fee schedules and works hard to keep the cost of tuition down. “The board members do not take tuition increases lightly,” he said.

“There’s a pretty in-depth conversation that goes along with the tuition increase. This year, we didn’t want to go where we were at in prior years, and we didn’t. The president would have liked to have kept it lower, but we had these competing issues of cost and balance,” said Mausser.

He also stressed the importance of JCU’s net price – the amount students pay after subtracting financial aid and scholarships – over what he terms the “sticker price” of  $33,330.

“The sticker price, which is what the increase gets applied to, is irrelevant, I think, because nobody pays the sticker price,” Mausser said. “Financial aid and net tuition is what everybody’s looking at, and I think that’s what everybody should look at.”

According to numbers from the National Center for Education Statistics and its College Navigator, JCU’s average net tuition price for full-time beginning undergraduate students has decreased over the past three school years for which statistics are available. From an average net price of $21,945 in 2008-2009, the rate dropped to $21,850 in 2009-2010 and $21,322 in 2010-2011. The averages reflect costs for resident students, not commuters.

Cost is consistently a concern for prospective students and their families, said Brian Williams, the University’s vice president for enrollment. But he believes JCU is in a favorable position regionally and nationally with the cost and value of a Catholic education at a private institution.

“Our admission process addresses cost and value in a very upfront and direct way with families.  Our staff is very personalized with families and provides a clear sense of why they should consider a JCU degree and experience,” Williams said via email. “As one example, we have a college cost calculator on our site that was completed by over 500 families this fall. I believe the way our enrollment staff works as an admission and financial contact for families allows us to get to know families and their unique concerns early in the process. This allows up to help them through the scholarship and need-based process and let them see that it is possible to plan for and afford John Carroll.”

Despite the rise in the full-time undergraduate tuition rate for next year, interest in JCU has grown among prospective families. As of Feb. 10, according to information from Williams, the University is ahead in applications and acceptances compared to last year. So far, JCU has received 3,457 applications and accepted 2,793 of those applicants.

“This has allowed us to act on admissions decisions and offer acceptances much earlier, and we are actually 11 percent ahead in offering admission to students,” he said via email. “We still have a lot more work to do between now and May 1 to make sure that students choose to enroll at JCU among the other offers they receive.”

According to the John Carroll University 2012-2013 Fact Book, freshman enrollment dipped this year. While JCU received more inquiries and applications, and accepted more students, fewer enrolled. Freshman enrollment rose from 661 in 2009, to 702 in 2010 and 744 in 2011. In 2012, 681 enrolled as freshman at JCU, out of 3,490 applications submitted and 2,843 accepted.

Williams said the University is focused on bringing freshman enrollment back above 700 students for the class of 2017.

“We have a solid number of new majors being added at the school over the last few years that students are starting to see; and beyond the classroom, we are adding lacrosse to our athletic offerings, the upcoming Murphy Hall renovation and have many good stories to tell students,” he said. “Those positive stories in the media and in our process are really beginning to take hold.”

Williams said that institutional aid awards are level-funded, which means that the amount awarded initially to students stays the same throughout his or her four years. In addition, JCU need-based funds don’t diminish based on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which is a practice maintained at many other institutions.

“Current students should always explore all of the options available to them whether as grants, loans or student employment options. Our financial aid staff is the best first point of contact to have that discussion,” Williams said. “Specifically, when families have seen a significant change in their family income and savings from when they started at JCU, we try to help families through our appeals process as best as we can.”