Although college tuitions continue to skyrocket nationwide, the rate at which average college fees rose this year was the lowest in 30 years, the College Board reported Oct. 23.
Georgetown, however, diverged from this trend. Tuition rose 3 percent, 3.5 percent and 4.5 percent in 2011, 2012 and 2013, respectively. This represents a 22.2 percent rise in the rate of tuition increase between 2012 to 2013, compared to 14.3 percent between 2011 and 2012.
Nevertheless, Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Charles Deacon (COL ’64, GRD ’69) said that Georgetown has been striving to keep tuition increases under control.
“Overall, Georgetown has been successful, relatively speaking, during the last six or seven years at slowing the [tuition] growth,” Deacon said. “About five or six years ago we were one of the top five most expensive colleges in the country. Now we’re not in the top 50.”
Between the years 2008 and 2011, tuition increases at the university had remained largely around 3.0 percent, representing nearly no change in the rate of tuition increase.
“We’ve found that after three years, that level of increase was not sustainable for the fourth year without creating the possibility that there would be a negative impact on the academic excellence of the institution,” Vice President for Advancement Bart Moore (SFS ’87) said.
Despite an overall slowing in tuition growth across the country, the College Board also found that colleges are becoming less affordable, as the tuition increase rate outpaces the U.S. inflation rate, which was 1.18 percent last year. The net price of tuition, or the fees paid by full-time students after subtracting financial aid, have risen post-recession.
According to Deacon, the financial burden caused by tuition increases strains middle-income families the most. Students with higher demonstrated need receive more aid and therefore pay lower net prices, while students from more affluent families can more easily afford increased net costs. However, middle-income families qualifying for less aid often struggle to cope with tuition increases.
“We’re lucky enough to be in high demand, so people are willing to do whatever they can to do their share,” Deacon said.
But while tuition is Georgetown’s main source of revenue, tuition increases also correlate with higher financial aid costs. Due to the relatively small size of Georgetown’s endowment, these costs largely come from the university’s operational budget. As a result, increased financial aid expenses necessitate the restriction of internal costs so that total annual costs can keep pace with inflation.
“The way that we are making that work for the university is to maintain very close to zero real increase in spending, particularly on administrative and other areas that do not directly impact the student experience,” Moore said.
According to Moore, merit-based salary increases for administrators and other non-academic employees increased by only 0.75 percent this year to adjust for inflation. In recent years, merit increases have been as low as 0 percent.
Nevertheless, Deacon stressed that some spending increases are still necessary in order to retain the best faculty and maintain Georgetown’s academic excellence.
“You can cut costs dramatically, but you also undermine the quality of the experience that you’re getting for students and a place like Georgetown wants a high quality experience,” Deacon said.
As a result, the university is seeking other options to fund increased financial aid commitments.
“We are offsetting all of the increases in year-to-year costs of financial aid for the university through increases in our donor support for financial aid,” Moore said.
Currently, donor support accounts for 29 percent of the university’s financial aid budget, up from 16 percent at the start of the university’s ongoing capital campaign in 2006. The university hopes to raise that number to 45 percent by 2016.
“The leadership of the university continues to hold financial aid as the most important thing that we need to fund,” Deacon said.
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