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Enrollment officials hold dinner to discuss rising tuition costs

Last Wednesday, faculty, staff, students, and parents spoke together about the many tuition bills that will flood mailboxes next fall. Other than an intermission for dinner, University officials had a lot to say about why tuition was rising.

This year, students had to put together $31,650 for tuition alone, and at this meeting, officials explained why that figure will continue to rise. The Office of Enrollment facilitated this Undergraduate Tuition Meeting to address the concern whether increases are commensurate with this striking figure, and they encouraged participants to give feedback on the issue. After hearing the presentations and processing the numbers, participants indicated that while the number still continues to climb, their concern started falling.

Nine students, ranging from first-years to juniors, attended the meeting. Other attendees included 26 parents, and assorted faculty and staff such as Joseph Devine, associate dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, and Jim Hoburg, a professor of electrical and computer engineering. Melissa Taranto, an analyst from CMU Institutional Research and Analysis, began the presentation by explaining CMU?s ranking according to the U.S. News and World Report. Her presentation broke down the many statistics that determined CMU?s 22nd rank among 246 national universities, and showed how the University compared with peer institutions.

According to the presentation, alumni donations play a factor in the ranking. Taranto said that of CMU?s alumni, 26 percent have contributed money to their school. The University ranks 31st in this category.
Another category considers educational expenses. CMU spends on average about $50,000 per full time student every year, ranking 24th among peer institutions.

After that, William Elliott, the Vice-President for Enrollment, talked about CMU?s tuition rate in comparison with other universities. Elliott said that CMU?s average tuition rate comes out just above the national average of $31,525. Further, he said tuition has risen for the past 11 years. However, one graph Elliott presented showed that for eight of the past 11 years, CMU?s tuition has risen in lower percentages than the tuition of its peer institutions.

When all the costs are totaled this year, CMU?s price tag falls at $40,960. The average cost of attending what Elliott called ?competitor schools? such as Cornell University, Northwestern University, and University of Pennsylvania is $41,046.

Even with this, Elliott said, ?Our aspirations are bigger than our checkbook.?

Provost Mark Kamlet then presented CMU?s many achievements. ?We?re really not 22nd,? Kamlet said. ?... That?s not how we think of ourselves. We pick areas to excel in ... and all of our departments are in the top 15.?

Kamlet called CMU a ?scrappy success story? because the University came into its own only a few decades ago, and has now achieved nationwide recognition for improving its capacity to
affect undergraduate students. Continuing, Kamlet said that CMU only has an endowment of about $837.5 million compared to the average endowment of its competitors of $409.6 million. Kamlet pointed out that in terms of financial efficiency, CMU comes out at the top.

Even with this expert efficiency, undergraduate tuition will still rise five to seven percent next fall.
In feedback presentations, representatives from each table spoke about the increases. Overall, participants in the discussions approved of the increase. With all those areas in which CMU aims to improve, and all those in which the school already excels, the consensus was that the numbers make sense.