Tuition shoots to 39k for 2006-2007

By Amy Lieberman

For the third consecutive year, Macalester’s price tag has increased 6.9 percent, leaving students and parents to foot a $39,020 bill for the 2006-2007 academic year. While tuition and fees increased 8.4 percent, the increase in room is only 3 percent, and board charges have remained the same.

Students who do not receive financial aid, making up approximately one-fourth of the student body, will be hit hardest by the increase from last year’s $36,500 cost, President Brian Rosenberg said. The college will continue to distribute financial aid accordingly to those in need, compensating for the rising tuition costs.

While the decision is not linked to a specific future expenditure, Rosenberg and Treasurer David Wheaton referred to Rosenberg’s distributed long-term plan for the college, titled “World Class Strategic Imperatives,” as an explanation to increase the college’s net tuition revenue. Rosenberg released this document in the fall.

In his plan, Rosenberg focuses on increasing the school’s general quality, along with its reputation and recognition- an outline that, he thinks, goes hand in hand with an increase in the school’s endowment, and subsequently, tuition.

“If we can invest the revenue we have, it is the best way to increase our reputation,” Rosenberg said. “The stronger and stronger our reputation will be nationally, the more attractive place this will be to more people. If we don’t invest, we cant further it.”

This year, the Fiske Guide to Colleges named Macalester one of 28 “Best Buy” private schools. And the numbers reflect this. In relation to 40 peer schools, Macalester stands at the lower end of the cost spectrum, ranking 35. But being labeled a “Best Buy” school, Rosenberg expressed, can’t be confused with a cheap education.

“It’s a balancing act, to keep things affordable and to give people what they want,” he said. “We can’t be the low-price alternative. We will remain less expensive, but it can’t slip farther behind.”

The price increase is also a larger issue, based on a generally expensive higher education industry. If other liberal arts colleges continue to generally increase their prices, Macalester will most likely follow suit, Rosenberg said.

“I don’t know when it stops,” Wheaton said of the increase. “It is a long-term discussion. Affording a liberal arts college education was an issue in 1984 and it still is.” But Wheaton added that he doesn’t see the industry’s growth declining anytime soon, nor does he see Macalester’s development suddenly coming to a halt.

The college and its recently drafted budget for the 2006-2007 school year have taken into consideration upcoming projects that require additional funding, including the Institute for Global Citizenship, which is expected to launch in September. Most of the funding for the Institute, though, will come from donations.

Rosenberg also said the college is focusing on funding for study abroad, hiring faculty members, new academic focuses, such as Middle Eastern studies, and the soon-to-be reconstructed Athletic Building. In the more distant future, plans for a new Fine Arts building have been discussed, and new academic courses that incorporate venturing into the Twin Cities.

More generally, all costs the school pays, such as health insurance for students, tend to increase above inflation with time. “All prices we face for everything will rise,” Wheaton said. “We want to be able to add and enhance things. We’re not doing the same things we were doing twenty years ago. In the last 25 years at Mac, our reputation has grown.”

Rosenberg said that the increase in tuition but relatively stagnant mark in room and board is unusual, is in part attributed to the vacancies in campus dorms this year. By capping the increase on room and board, the administration is hoping that more students will consider living on campus.

“We hope the gap doesn’t get too big,” Rosenberg said. “We are trying to make living on campus more affordable. Our board prices are typical, relatively, but still expensive.”

Reilly Pruitt ’08 said that the administration’s room and board pricing cap will not affect her decision to move off campus next semester. “I feel like part of college is moving into a more adult world,” she said, “and that doesn’t include living in the dorms and having all your meals made for you.” Ramiro Nandez ’08 agreed. “I want to live off campus,” he said. “I think two years living on campus is plenty. This decision isn’t going to affect that.”

Nandez also recalled the tuition increase from last year and said that he didn’t notice any changes at Macalester, aside from more computers. “I agree that because we are becoming more recognized we should have more money,” he said. “But with more recognition, it should be easier to get more funding from industries or alumni. The money shouldn’t come from the students.”

–Correction: This article as originally published mistakenly included a sentence citing Rosenberg as saying revenue from tuition is placed in the endowment. Tuition revenue goes directly into the operating budget.