College Tuition to Increase by 3.25%

By ROSE EVANS

Amid efforts from the college to decrease its deficit in the coming years, the Middlebury Board of Trustees announced at the end of last month that it will raise undergraduate tuition and room and board costs for the 2019-2020 academic year. 

Cost of attendance will increase 3.25%, or $2,261, resulting in a total price of $71,822: $55,790 for tuition and $16,032 for room and board.

Tuition increases are recommended by the administration and approved by the trustees to minimize the current budget deficit, based on Middlebury’s operating costs. 

In a college news release on March 25, Middlebury President Laurie L. Patton cited Middlebury’s commitment to financial aid and a low faculty-student ratio as priorities for determining tuition prices.

“It is critical that we maintain the quality of the student experience as well as our commitment to making Middlebury accessible to a diverse group of talented and bright students,” she said.

The administration also factors into its decision the national inflation rate. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the inflation rate is currently around 1.5%. The change in tuition cannot be wholly attributed to inflation. This year’s tuition increase was 1.75% greater than the inflation rate. 

At the start of the decade, Middlebury announced a commitment to limiting tuition increases to 1% over inflation as indicated by the Consumer Price Index (CPI). The once-commended program, known informally as “CPI + 1,” was scrapped in April 2015 following rising budget deficits.

David Provost, Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration & Treasurer, attributed Middlebury’s current financial instability to the disproportionately high increases in college expenses in recent years, compared to the relatively low increases in revenue that the college took in while the CPI + 1 policy was in effect.

The college was subsequently forced to raise tuition prices significantly, at times by nearly 5%, but the rates of change have stabilized in recent years. “The Board and President Patton are committed to financial sustainability,” Provost said in an interview with The Campus.

Provost said that the budget for fiscal year 2020 will be the break even point for the deficit, a year earlier than the school had predicted.

Middlebury’s current costs are similar to those of its NESCAC peers, and the average cost of attending a NESCAC school in the 2018-2019 academic year is $69,877, compared to $69,561 at Middlebury. These costs are rising across the NESCAC. At Wesleyan, costs will increase 4.38% to $73,833 for the 2019-2020 academic year. Williams will raise its costs by 3.32% to $72,270 in the coming academic year.

Provost predicted that in the next three to five years, tuition increases will remain in the 3% range. 

Provost attributed the continual rise in tuition rates to both the rise in service costs and the addition of new services. “Middlebury College is a different place than it was 20 years ago” he said, “there are more services that we need to provide and that comes at a cost.” 

Despite concerns about increasing costs and their impact on affordability, Middlebury points to its financial aid program, which services over 45% of the student body, to reassure students that their financial needs will continue to be met. Middlebury will remain need-blind in the application process and meet 100% of demonstrated need of admitted students, unlike some of its NESCAC companions Bates, Connecticut College and Colby. Middlebury also predicts a 9% increase in financial aid for the 2019-2020 academic year.

“We will address (tuition increases) by giving more aid to the most needy students” Provost said. Even with rises in tuition, student debt has remained stable over the last five years. The average student debt for graduating seniors in May 2018 was $14,874.

The college’s budget deficit has also prompted the college to cut staff costs through buyouts, and reduce faculty by offering incentive retirement packages.

Provost hopes that tuition does not increase dramatically, but he does not expect it to stop rising in the coming years.

“There is a day in the foreseeable future that it will hit $100,000,” he said.

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College Tuition to Increase by 3.25%