Tuition expected to increase about four percent

Amanda Spadaro, Co-Editor-in-Chief

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In preparation for the 2015-2016 academic year, the college is currently looking into a four percent tuition increase, which must first be approved by the Board of Trustees in February 2015. Tuition is expected to increase along with the discount rate, which provides institutional aid for students based on need in order to reduce the out-of-pocket tuition price.

The Finance and Facilities Committee, staffed by approximately 20 voting members of administrators, faculty and ASG student representatives, proposes a number of financial scenarios to the Trustees for the next fiscal year. Alongside FFC, the Administrative Executive Committee helps present scenarios to provide multiple ways to balance the current college deficit.

Sue Gaylor, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the college, serves as co-chair of FFC and predicts that the tuition increase will be between 3.5 and 4.25 percent while room and board will likely see a four percent rise, which is deemed necessary by a number of outside factors.

As for room and board, the increases in Parkhurst annual prices and even price increases in amenities like heating and electricity have required Allegheny to raise prices to cover these costs.

However, the rise in tuition is much more complicated. As Gaylor explained, one basic assumption is that tuition covers the full cost of academics, which is no longer the case at Allegheny.

“One of the things you hope is that tuition costs would cover the academic program…That’s actually no longer the case,” Gaylor said. “Tuition doesn’t actually cover the academic program anymore so we’re having to find ways to stretch our dollars. It covers about 80-90 percent, but it used to be something you could always count on.”

In addition to this, students do not typically pay the full price of tuition. Allegheny’s discount rate allows the college to use institutional funds to decrease the final price of attending for students, with students only paying about 47 to 50 percent of tuition on average. The discount rate can only increase so much in relation to tuition though, considering the funds 3Allegheny has available.

“Right now, we’re getting about 43 cents on the dollar. That’s not sustainable if we keep getting less and less. It’s not sustainable over time, so at a minimum, we’re trying to slow down the discount rate or keep it as stable as we can,” Gaylor said.

Regardless of the discount rate, a handful of students do pay the full price of tuition, typically being the ones who feel most of the burden during tuition increases. Similarly, those students who can afford to pay the full price are enabling the college to direct financial aid dollars toward the students who need the assistance in order to attend Allegheny. Especially as tuition increases, it is important that aid is equally increased for need-based students so that they can return year after year, according to Jonathan Boleratz, director of financial aid.

“Often times, [the families who can afford the tuition] are the ones who take that tuition increase burden. We’re able to better help the ones who need more help. We’re able to shift our dollars to them because if they’re struggling in their freshman and sophomore year and the tuition gets increased, we also have to help them with more aid their junior year or else it is not going to be possible for them to stay here,” he said.

Allegheny is not the only college facing similar increases, which FFC, AEC and the Board of Trustees remain cognizant of while making these decisions. FFC currently has a list of Standard Comparison Schools, colleges which are similar to Allegheny which can help inform decision-making by comparing a number of factors like enrollment, tuition, endowment and the like. Some of the schools include the College of Wooster, Denison College, Depauw University and Kenyon College.

One of the things you hope is that tuition costs would cover the academic program…That’s actually no longer the case. Tuition doesn’t actually cover the academic program anymore so we’re having to find ways to stretch our dollars.”

— Sue Gaylor

Even public schools face similar increases, often even larger percentages than private schools.

“The public [schools] are receiving less help from the states so their tuition increases are more sizable than the private colleges increases,” Boleratz said. “Publics are not doing any better than privates…The publics are often looking at eight to 10 percent. It’s annually and it keeps adding up. A lot of times they are not providing institutional aid like Allegheny or other four-year private schools.”

Boleratz recently attended a conference in October where different tuition and discount models were discussed as remedies for this issue that many colleges are currently facing. As prices rise for running any operation, colleges are often forced into increasing tuition costs or cutting back the budget in other ways through layoffs or changes to the services offered, which Allegheny wants to avoid.

“We paid very close attention to how we don’t want the experience in the classroom to change. It needs to be as strong as it always is, so we trimmed where we could but we don’t want that core experience for students to change at all,” Gaylor said.

The issue of the tuition increase, which is not unique to Allegheny, also appears to be a consequence of the current social, cultural and political climate that the country as a whole has, according to Boleratz.

“Part of [the problem] is political,” Boleratz said. “Part of it is economic when you look at our country and the deficit, part of it is social where it’s just become a cultural trend to be okay with debt and part of it is the changing landscape of not only higher education but also K-12 and the whole…education system.”

Nick Tortorici, ’15, ASG’s director of the college committee’s council, has a newly-created position that is working on improving the transparency between these administrative decisions and the student body. While he thinks on the scale of Allegheny, the issue is not something for students to be concerned by, he believes that the issue reveals some larger problems regarding the value of higher education in the country.

“I wouldn’t be alarmed for anyone here in the next eight years. This isn’t something that you need to panic about…,” Tortorici said. “Now, this relates to a larger conversation about the affordability of higher education…Allegheny needs to probably take a better look at how it stands nationally, consider the implications of tuition increases on the entire academic process nationwide. So are we being complicit in that process or are we trying to push back against ever-increasing tuition rate, providing a quality, affordable education?”

As FFC, AEC and the Board of Trustees move forward in the discussion, Gaylor emphasized that the tuition increase is still in the preliminary stages and has yet to be approved. In addition, she has faith that the administrators and trustees are doing their best in balancing the needs of the students that currently attend Allegheny while still enabling the college to have funds for a sustainable, long-term future.

“I see the college’s books and I see that we need to balance the budget. I talk to the families and I see that we need to give more aid,” Boleratz said, “Then it becomes meeting in the middle somewhere to make it happen for both parties involved.”

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