In an email last week, Boston University President Robert A. Brown outlined many familiar higher education issues today: the need to help Ukrainian students affected by the war in their homeland, long-standing concerns about the coronavirus pandemic and employment difficulties. amid the Great Resignation, which forced many workers to leave their jobs.
But above all, Brown described inflation as his biggest concern.
“Certainly, my biggest concern is the impact of inflation on faculty and staff, our students and the university. We have increased our undergraduate studies by 4.25% next school year, which is the biggest increase in the last 14 years, after growing by only 3.0% last year, ” Wrote Brown. “This increase is not in line with current national inflation rates and cannot fully offset the increase in university spending or salary increases that will fully mitigate the effects of inflation on the families of faculty and staff. I also remember that our students and their families have suffered from our rise and from inflation. We find ourselves in inflationary pressures between institutional pressures and the impact on our students and their families. ”
This almost historic tuition increase comes after the best year of fundraising in history for Boston University, which brought in $ 225 million in charitable support in 2021.
Brown, who declined to be interviewed, is not alone in his concern about inflation: colleges across the country are battling its effects. Also BU is not the only institution that raises tuition fees. Looking ahead, experts say a sharp rise in tuition fees could increase if inflation does not slow down.
Rising college costs
Colleges are shrinking in many of the same ways as American households.
“Inflation is real. And that could be a topic of discussion for institutions as they advocate rising prices in the coming years, but they are absolutely facing the higher costs we all face across the economy today, ”said Beth Akers, senior researcher at the Center for Legal Analysis Center for the American Institute of Entrepreneurship and Education Economist. “Just as we all face higher prices for goods and services, they also have to raise the salaries they pay their teachers, as well as support staff and administration.”
And while colleges may be paying more for things like fuel, utilities, food, health care and other necessities, some experts say the increase in tuition will only go so far in easing inflationary spending costs. means that it is only one part of a financial institution. planning.
“Rarely, rising tuition costs cover all expected costs, which will mean cuts in other areas to doing what institutions consider essential,” said Jim Hundrizer, vice president of consulting services for the National Association. staff of colleges and universities.
Hundrizer added that he expects the nearly historic increase in tuition fees, as at Boston University, to become more common this or next year if inflation doesn’t decrease any time soon.
The current inflation rate is 8.3 percent over the past 12 months, according to data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics on Wednesday. This figure represents a slight decrease of 0.3 percent since March, when inflation peaked in April 1981.
And when prices rise, they often don’t go down, which means that certain costs will remain high even as inflation slows.
“It’s a real price increase that won’t go away,” Akers said. “Even if we talk about slowing inflation in the future, we will not see a return in prices. When we talk about the inflation target, it’s still a positive inflation rate. So we will continue to see the prices that institutions have to respond to by increasing the cost of tuition so that institutions can recoup the costs they face, just for the day-to-day costs we all face that are also rising. ”
The cost of training in climbing
This year, the cost of tuition is rising in many colleges, both public and private. It happens after two years of historically low tuition growthaccording to the annual trend report from the college council.
While a comprehensive estimate of tuition price increases this year is not yet available, a cursory look shows that many increases have been approved or are currently being considered. In December, the University of Virginia approved Growth of 8.4 percent for undergraduate study and fees for the next two years; The Oregon Institute of Technology has increased the cost of undergraduate study 6.6 percent, or 7 percent if student fees are included; and Syracuse University have raised tuition fees at 4.5 percentjust to name a few examples of institutions outpacing 4.25 percent growth at Boston University, the highest figure since the Great Recession.
The University of Virginia has not responded to numerous media inquiries, but has previously described the increase in tuition fees as “a response to rising university operating costs across a wide range of sectors.” And, like some others, he pointed to inflation as one of the driving forces of growth.
“These new tuition fees will help the university balance its annual budget in the face of inflation while maintaining our commitment to affordability and value,” UVA President Jim Ryan said in a December news release approving a two-year increase in tuition fees.
While some colleges have ample opportunities to increase the cost of tuition, others face legal constraints. So in Washington, where state law in 2017 limited the limit on tuition in public colleges for students enrolled in public schools, although this allows flexibility for other categories of students.
The University of Washington Board of Governors has approved a 2.4 percent increase in tuition fees for students this month. While the WSU faces many challenges, including inflation, declining enrollment and rising compensation costs, this is all the university is allowed to do.
“Honestly, I think inflation is only exacerbating the challenges we’re facing,” said Phil Weiler, vice president of marketing and communications in Washington, D.C., who also points to declining enrollment in public colleges that regularly fill the WSU. with transfer students.
Before the law restricted the increase in tuition fees, Weiler noted that prices are subject to “wild rotations.” After the Great Recession, tuition increased by 15 percent a year. Now the university is committed to predictability and expects the 2.5 percent increase to be stable year on year for students studying in the state. But this may not be the case for undergraduate and graduate students.
“The law specifically states that the legislature sets a limit on how much tuition at public universities can be increased for undergraduate students,” Weiler explained. “This is a large percentage of our students, but this is not the only category of students. We have international students, we have resident graduate students, international graduate students and of course we have international students. The university has flexibility towards all other categories of students ”.
Regardless of the category, however, the cost of tuition remained within 5 percent for all students.
Some experts warn that in addition to inflation, certain government policies could increase the cost of tuition. Akers of the Conservative American Institute of Entrepreneurship believes that if the federal government forgives a student loan debt, tuition will increase accordingly.
“I am concerned about this policy with regard to inflation is that by canceling debt, we are giving a clear guarantee that people who take on debt tomorrow will also face some sort of rescue of their borrowings so that they are not on the hook to repay everything they borrowed, ”Akers said. “And the concern is that as a borrower, as someone who chooses how much to spend, how much to borrow for college, I will be inclined to spend more than otherwise if I believe someone is going to and rid me of my debts in the future. “
If students are willing to borrow more, believing that their loans will be forgiven, Akers believes this relieves pressure on college to cut education costs.
“You don’t have to be a predatory institution to respond to incentives,” Akers said. “If institutions don’t need to be competitive enough in price to compete for the students they want to apply for, then they will be less aggressive in trying to keep prices down, and the natural outcome will be higher prices.”