The truth behind tuition hikes

Despite increases, Goshen remains in good standing.

By Jeffrey Moore, Contributing Writer

College is expensive. Just ask any senior graduating with $50,000 in debt, or parents – many of whom foot a large part of the bill for Goshen students – or even the administrators who spend countless hours crunching numbers and trying to make ends meet while keeping Goshen’s education affordable.

Annabeth Tucker, a junior English writing major, said, “I am nearing the end of my college career. Debt from loans is about to become a very big reality.”

She is not alone.

Over the last several years students have seen a vast growth in tuition expenses. Total inflation adjusted costs for a student living on campus in 2000, for example, were about $25,000 a year according to the Goshen College Fact Book. (available at http://www.goshen.edu/ir/factbook/)

This is more than $12,000 less than tuition will cost next year after the new 5.7 percent tuition fee increase.

In fact, tuition has been steadily increasing since the recession in 2008. Before then it had remained relatively stable at about $30,000 a year, but since that time it has increased rapidly – sometimes by $1,000 or more a year. This latest increase represents the largest so far – slightly more than $2,000 in one year.

This means that students beginning next year will pay $5,000 more per year than this year’s senior class did in 2009. But the numbers are more complicated than they seem.

It turns out that few students actually pay the “sticker price” at any college. Goshen, like most institutions, offers substantial financial aid to students based on need.

According to Deanna Risser, assistant director of institutional research and budget & financial reporting manager, the average student paid $18,760 in 2011 for tuition, room and board – far less than the $32,800 ticket price.

Jim Histand, vice president for finance, said financial aid is the second highest expense behind salaries – about $9.5 million.

This number reflects the growing need for financial aid from families still recovering from the economic recession. According to Histand, “the fastest growing cost of all during these last three years of downturn in our economy has been the financial aid section of our budget.”

For the people who actually set the tuition price, it is crucial to compare Goshen to similar colleges. Histand said that “our students graduate with lower average debt than all of the Mennonite colleges and also lower than virtually all of the other colleges in the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU).”

In an email to students on March 5, Histand said that Goshen continues be ranked in the top tier of all U.S. colleges and universities based on qualitative factors such as “high four-year graduation rate, low average student debt at graduation, excellent student-to-faculty ratio, excellent campus resources and overall great value.”

In the end, the important factor in the minds of GC administrators is keeping the cost of college affordable while maintaining high academic standards–assuming that students are still willing to pay for high quality education.

James Townsend, vice president for enrollment and marketing, said that “as long as we continue to look out for opportunities to keep costs down, with quality up, I don’t see it [the tuition increase] impacting our enrollment.”

Numbers matter, but they do not tell the whole story. There may come a time when the college bubble bursts, just like the current housing bubble, but for now, Goshen administrators maintain that the institution is well-positioned.

Liz Core
Written by Liz Core

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