The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Tuition on the rise for 2011-2012

By Emma WestRasmus

The pricetag of a Macalester education will reach and all-time high next year, surpassing the $50,000 mark in the 2011-2012 school year. The Board of Trustees approved the 4.7 percent increase in the comprehensive fee, which includes tuition, room, board and the activity fee, bringing the cost of attending Macalester from $49,124 to $51,417 for the next school year. Tuition itself will rise from $39,846 to $41,800.”No one likes it when we have to raise tuition,” President Brian Rosenberg said. “It’s a challenging balancing act. We work hard to make Mac financially affordable.”

The tuition increase was one part of the academic budget. The Task Force on the Budget (TFOB) chaired by Chief Financial Officer David Wheaton, drafted an initial recommendation proposing the nearly $2,300 increase in the comprehensive fee. The proposed budget then went to the Finance Committee of the Board of Trustees, and was eventually approved by the full board.

Though the proposed tuition increase went through various committees and reviewers, President Rosenberg said he was “kept in the loop” during all stages of the budget.

“No proposal would go to the Trustees without me,” Rosenberg said. “Everyone was in alignment this year.”

Wheaton echoed Rosenberg, noting that there was support across the board for the tuition hike.

“I think that all decision making levels see the increase as a necessary investment in the quality of what we are offering and in delivering what our students and their families expect,” Wheaton said.

Rosenberg believes that the change in costs will not drastically effect students receiving the largest portions of financial aid nor the families that are comfortably paying full tuition already. Where Rosenberg sees the most potential hardship are the families that may not identify as wealthy, but receive little to no financial aid.

“I’m aware that these families are the ones in the toughest spot,” Rosenberg said.

Director of Financial Aid Brian Lindeman ’89 agreed, and said the financial aid office acknowledges that the tuition increases will place a burden on some students and families, and says it’s concerning to him.

“We don’t pretend this is painless for our families,” Lindeman said. “But we feel hopeful that the college will continue their commitment of keeping it affordable.”

Despite the hike in costs, administrators voiced the college’s commitment to keeping Macalester affordable for families and financially accesible to students of diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. Rosenberg noted that the financial aid budget has been increasing at three times the rate of tuition increases in recent years.

“When tuition goes up, aid packages go up too,” Rosenberg said.

In the 2009-2010 academic year, financial aid offerings increased by 12 percent, and though Lindeman believes the increase will not be as substantial for the coming year, his budget will increase next year. The exact amount of the increase will not be finalized until the final budget is set in May.

About 70 percent of Macalester students receive financial aid, and though administration officials are dedicated to maintaining the institutional support of generous financial aid, Lindeman admits that Macalester’s commitment to a large financial aid budget means that sometimes tuition hikes are necessary.

“If no students received aid, it would be easier to hold tuition down,” Lindeman said.

While making Macalester accessible to students from diverse financial backgrounds is challenge Lindeman says the financial aid office embraces, “it’s a challenge nonetheless.”

Shane Levy ’13 believes that though the tuition increases aren’t ideal, as a nonprofit Mac must increase revenues to keep up with rising costs.

“I much prefer tuition increases to, say, not meeting students’ demonstrated need for financial aid,” Levy said. “And I think a comparison with peer institutions would show that Macalester is probably doing what other colleges are doing.”

Many students are neutral about the increase in tuition, or believe that it is a trade-off for the services they rely on at Mac, but some students have expressed frustration at what they see as an unfair burden on their families in an already taxing economic climate.

“Macalester is a quality institution but I question whether it is really necessary to ask the student population for thousands of dollars more when most are already suffering and making compromises,” said Silka Schreiber ’13. “It is a huge burden for students to pay even more than what is already considerably high tuition. The rest of the country is making compromises in these tough economic times and Macalester needs to do the same in order to keep tuition affordable for students.”

Megan Whitney ’13 says the tuition increase will effect her family next year, as both she and her brother will be attending costly colleges which will cause a strain on her parents.

“I think that the increase in tuition is a relatively insensitive move on the college’s part,” Whitney said. “Most families are feeling the effects of the recession, albeit to varying effects, and that’s a pretty bold move on the college’s part to ask for more money. People are continuing with their jobs at the same, if not a lower, rate and do not demand for increases. If there is an explanation [for the tuition increases], it has not been made clear to the general student body, and I find it hard to justify any increase in spending for the coming year.”

However Wheaton believes that ultimately with the college’s continued commitment to maintaining a large financial aid budget, the 2011-2012 tuition won’t make the college dramatically more or less affordable next year.

“There’s no question that the increase is significant to families,” Wheaton said. “But it’s unlikely that people’s impression of the college’s affordability will be different as a result of this decision.”

While Rosenberg says he understands the extra burden that may be placed on some families, tuition increases don’t net the college any extra dollars, and that tuition dollars go directly back into the college.

“People often forget that we’re not a for-profit,” Rosenberg said. “When tuition goes up, no one’s making money.”

Rosenberg announced the tuition hike and the reasoning behind the increase in a Feb. 10 letter sent to the parents of current students. The letter emphasized that while the college recognized the hardship the rise in the tuition and comprehensive fee would pose to some families, but that after careful consideration without a tuition increase, there was no way to maintain the programs and basic necessities needed to keep the college running without compromising the quality of a Macalester education.

Despite the resistance some students have voiced to the tuition and comprehensive fee increases, Rosenberg and Lindeman said the public outcry from alumni, students and families about the decision has been minimal.

“No one writes to congratulate you on a a tuition increase,” Rosenberg said.

Rosenberg said he only has received three of four letters regarding the cost increase, and Lindeberg hasn’t gotten any feedback from parents of prospective students.

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