Adding context to the increase

February 6, 2013 3:53 PMComments Off

Story by Lauren Horsch

Next year, Drake students will reach deeper into their finances to pay for a 4.5 percent tuition increase. The announcement was made Tuesday afternoon via a campus-wide email.

The email cited the two main reasons for the increases were to help offset merit-based salary increased to help keep faculty and to help fund the “most urgent priorities” in the university’s strategic plan.

The email, signed by University President David Maxwell said the increase was a “modest” one. The total amount added to tuition was $1,324. Room and board for on-campus housing increased 3.7 percent, adding $320 to the cost.

On Wednesday morning, Maxwell and Vice President of Business and Finance, Debbie Newsom said the increase was suggested by a Budget Advisory Committee, and then brought to vote by the Board of Trustees. The committee, started by Newsom, consisted of undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and staff.

The Board of Trustees voted on the tuition increase on Jan. 19.

Maxwell said the increase is also determined based on the “assumption” of next year’s budget, or an estimate of the coming year’s budget. If enrollment goals are met then an additional amount of revenue would be produced for the university’s budget.

The Budget Advisory Committee recommended the additional revenue go toward “merit based” salary increases for faculty and toward the university’s strategic plan. Those recommendations, Maxwell said, were fully backed by the President’s Cabinet and the Board of Trustees.

Projections put $1.29 million for the salary increases and $410,000 for the strategic plan.

Maxwell said there are no across-the-board salary increases for faculty, instead it is based off of performance, which he said was “strategic” based on Drake’s promise to retain the best faculty for its students. Newsom said the increase for salaries was “modest” based off of the fact that about 70 percent of the total budget is for salaries and benefits.

They both said next year’s tuition increase was a “more engaged” process than previous years.

“Obviously, we don’t like to raise tuition,” Maxwell said.

Tom Delahunt, vice president for admission and student financial planning, said there is a “danger” that Drake might be considered too expensive with its “sticker price.” The sticker price is the tuition cost without financial aid factored in.

“We hope it won’t hurt us in the recruitment of students,” Delahunt said.

With this increase comes a little bit of context. Maxwell said our peer institutions have in the past raised their tuition costs between 3.5 and 6 percent. Tuesday’s announcement put Drake at a 4.5 percent increase.

Among Drake’s peer institutions, it is ranked the lowest in cost, but with tuition closing in on the $40,000 a year mark, Maxwell said it’s a “psychological issue.”

“Our goal is to keep tuition as low as we can while still keeping the promise of an exceptional learning environment,” he said.

With the increase, $1.1 million in financial aid will be given to students. This year Drake spent close to $48 million in financial aid to its students.

“We look very closely at what funds we have to utilize to help make Drake affordable,” Delahunt said. “It is still not enough …We sure wish it was.”

Maxwell also said Drake has the ability to support an incoming class of 900 students, which would factor into tuition changes in the future.

The reason the increase was described as “modest” is because the 4.5 percent increase in the middle of the average increase in tuition of peer institutions.

“You can’t pick up a newspaper … without somebody talking about the cost of college,” Delahunt said. “There are a lot of myths out there …We’ve got to get people through all this noise they’re hearing.”

“(The) top priority is for the Drake experience … and making sure we have the capacity (to insure that),” Newsom said.

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