At a meeting last week, the college’s Board of Managers released its budget for the next fiscal year, adding up to a total of $152.9 million. A 3.5% tuition increase is one of the key changes for next year’s budget, making tuition rise from $61,226 to $63,550 for the next academic year.
The Board of Managers explained in an online announcement that the tuition increase comes at the expense of the need “to balance long-term financial sustainability” and of “immediate demands”. Those demands include an increase in next year’s freshman class enrollment and the new Biology, Engineering, and Psychology (BEP) building to be constructed in the near future. The new budget also includes a $300,000 carbon charge part of the college’s environmental sustainability efforts, levied by a .5% departmental budget reduction and increased endowment spending. However, the increase in tuition itself is unrelated to the carbon charge.
The increase is comparably lower to tuition increases in years past. Since 1984, tuition has steadily increased annually around 5%. Eileen Petula, Associate Vice President of Finance and Treasurer, explained that the college expects the tuition price to remain around the mid-range of its peer institutions like Williams, Pomona, and Amherst. At those institutions, tuition is currently $66,240, $62,632, and $62,940 respectively.
Next year’s increase in tuition will be followed by more increases in the future.
“Some measure of increase is likely to continue because significant components of the college’s operating budget, in particular increases in financial aid and compensation tend to increase over time at rates above inflation,” said Petula.
Next year’s budget includes a 20% increase in financial aid services, increasing the current budget of $33.1 million to $39.6 million. That increase is mainly funded through the increase in expanded outreach efforts in the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid, and increased endowment spending that is also outlined in the 2016-2017 budget. Additionally, the budget increase for the financial aid will actually lead to an anticipated decrease in total revenue provided by students compared from this year to next. This makes most of financial burden of the increases in tuition be taken on by students who are already paying full price while students who receive financial aid will experience little change or even a decrease from what they already pay.
“The College remains deeply committed to its need-blind admissions policies and to providing loan-free financial aid packages that meet the demonstrated needs of its students,” Petula went on to say. “The success of expanded outreach efforts within Admissions and Financial Aid has resulted in a significant increase in financial aid needs.”
Even though tuition is an important factor affecting prospective students’ choices regarding which colleges to apply to, the Office of Admissions does not foresee any adverse changes regarding the 3.5% tuition increase due to the large increase to the financial aid department’s budget.
“We will continue to message to prospective families the ways in which our financial aid policies can make a Swarthmore education affordable,” said Director of Admissions J.T. Duck.
Some students, while lamenting the tuition hike, do not see the increase as detrimental to students given the boost in financial aid spending.
“I think that actually the hike in tuition isn’t necessarily terrible,” said Pavan Kalindindi ’19.
“Inflation demands price rise and the college has to do it at some point. So now that the financial aid has gone up as well, I think it will mostly affect the students paying full [tuition]. They are the ones less likely to be discouraged from applying by the price rise.”
Jonathan Hamel Sellman ’19 also echoed similar sentiments.
“It goes without saying that college is already expensive, and for a lot of families—even those on significant financial aid—any increase represents just that much more of a financial burden. At the same time, let’s not pretend like this is only an issue at Swat,” he said. “If it weren’t for this school’s generosity, many of us, including myself, wouldn’t even be here to complain about this. At the end of the day it sucks, but it’s also just a piece in a larger puzzle.”