Trustees approve tuition hike

With tuition officially rising next fall and federal financial aid programs facing cutbacks, Carnegie Mellon students may feel an increased tug on their wallets from the higher learning community.

According to a Carnegie Mellon press release, the university Board of Trustees authorized a tiered tuition increase on February 17. Returning students will pay 4.4 percent more for tuition next fall — a total of $33,050. Incoming first-years will pay a tuition eight percent higher than the current, or a total of $34,180. Room and board are up $267 (a 4.9 percent increase) and $106 (a 2.8 percent increase), respectively.

“There is a sticker-shock issue,” said University President Jared L. Cohon. “The major concern is that Carnegie Mellon becomes so high-priced that it becomes inaccessible for low-income students.... Students on financial aid are held harmless as it were.”

Along with the $2734 and $1454 tuition increases for incoming and returning students, financial aid will increase by the same amounts for all who qualify.

“There was a time when we were a destination for low-income students that were the first generation in the family to attend college,” Cohon said.

Students borrowing money to meet the rising tuition, though, could face an increased strain in light of Senate, House, and White House budget proposals.

“Loans are going to be marginally more expensive,” said William Elliott, vice-president for enrollment. “The final budget will probably be some compromise between the House and Senate,” he added, citing a lack of support for the Bush administration’s plans.

U.S. News and World Report reported on January 30 that the interest rate on Stafford Loans could increase from 5.3 percent to 6.8 percent. The rate for Parent Loans for Undergraduate Students could increase from a variable 6.1 percent to permanent 8.5 percent.

In addition, Pell grants, capped at $4050 since 2003, could be made available to more families for larger sums.

“There was a time when about 80 percent of our financial aid for students came from the government — it is now less than 20 percent,” Elliott said. “Clinton put the government out of the financial aid business and into the loan business.”

With tuition increasing and federal initiatives aligning to the changing needs of the legislature, Carnegie Mellon has stepped up its own fundraising efforts.

This fundraising campaign, which, as of December 25 had raised $258 million in three years, is focused on raising money for endowment, noted vice-president of University Advancement Robbee Baker Kosak.

“The campaign is not going to be felt overnight,” Kosak said, citing the $88 million Gates Center and new labs in Doherty Hall as the most topical changes resulting from recent fundraising efforts. “We are now raisng $6 million a year in annual donations.”

Despite this campaign and an increase in tuition, Carnegie Mellon continues to experience a tighter budget than its peers.

“We are very, very careful about how we spend every dime,” Kosak said.

Carnegie Mellon’s use of a tiered tuition increase differs from peer institutions also with plans for tuition increases this year.

Duke University announced in a February 24 press release that its tuition will increase at a flat rate of 4.5 percent to 32,845, countered by a 5.7 percent increase in financial aid.

Stanford University announced in a February 22 press release that tuition will increase 5.75 percent to $32,994, also by a flat rate.

Finally, reported on February 7 that Princeton University’s tuition will rise 4.9 percent to $42,200.

“We don’t want to be the most expensive; we want to be in the middle of the pack.” Cohon said.

“Most financial aid we give to students who can’t pay is coming directly from students who can pay.”

According to the president, the University’s aspirations will always exceed its endowment. He noted that it might be a generation before the University is in a place where it can institute system of financial aid meeting the total need of students.

“I don’t think this institution will ever have breathing room,” Elliott said. “People don’t see how we can be as good as we are with what we’ve got.”

Cohon noted a few specific uses of money accrued from the tuition increase and fundraising efforts, including the addition of more global content to the curriculum, more endowed professorships and graduate fellowships, improvements in language education, and a greater pay raise for faculty. Faculty saw a 2 percent pay increase last year.

“If you’ve got the money, I’ve got the ideas,” said Cohon.