Tuition, fees rise to just under $50,000

By Matt Day

Macalester’s tuition and fees will inch closer to the $50,000 mark next school year with an increase slightly larger than last year’s but below the high rates that preceded the financial crisis. The cost of a year at Macalester will increase by 4.6 percent for the 2010-11 school year, to $49,124, including room and board, according to college Institutional Research. The comprehensive fee this year was $46,942.

The increase will outpace the rate of US inflation, but is much lower than those that preceded the economic meltdown. Between 2004 and 2008, the annual tuition increase averaged about 7 percent, which is more than double the inflation during that period.

In response to expectations about families’ deteriorating financial situation following the stock market collapse in September 2008, the fees increase for the 2009-10 academic year was held to 4.4 percent.

In presenting next year’s budget to the faculty Tuesday, Macalester treasurer David Wheaton stressed that tuition increases are almost inevitable. He said about 60 percent of college expenses are related to staff costs, which themselves are tied to rising health care fees and cost of living increases that the college has little control over.

Wheaton said tuition increases similar to next year’s are projected for the next several years.

“We’re modeling the increase at 4.6 percent going out,” he said.

Tuition is the main source of revenue for the college, providing almost 50 percent of the operating budget.

The budget’s other chief resource, the payout from Macalester’s endowment, traditionally provides one-third of the college’s annual income. Wheaton said the payout will not increase until well after a national economic recovery begins in earnest.

Political science professor Paul Dosh cautioned that tuition increases on the scale of those before 2008 could limit access to Macalester. He said that while the higher price of a Macalester education can be offset by increases in financial aid, the price tag still acts as a barrier to some prospective students.

Dosh said in an e-mail that families may “struggle to pay that price, or even to pay that price adjusted by their financial aid package,” and that lower-income families are “discouraged from even applying because of the high sticker price, not realizing that they are unlikely to have to pay the full price.”

President Brian Rosenberg would not comment for this article. His assistant, Kathleen Alford, said Rosenberg does not comment publicly on the annual tuition increase until he communicates with parents of current students. A letter from his office to parents will be mailed next week.

The increase was approved by the Board of Trustees during its January conference call.