Cost of attendence finally surpasses $60,000
Editor in Chief
In November, The College of Wooster announced that tuition and fees for the 2017-2018 academic year will total $48,600, with room and board raising this figure to a “comprehensive fee” of $60,000.
In the past, tuition for the succeeding academic year was set by the Board of Trustees at a spring meeting, with the new rate announced over spring break.
This year, the Board decided upon next year’s rate during their October meeting, and it was announced to rising students around Thanksgiving, in a letter sent to place of the students’ primary residence, according to College President Sarah Bolton.
“We did that in order to help students get financial aid and financial information earlier. There was a change in federal law about the FAFSA and which tax year students could use to fill out their FAFSA,” said Bolton.
Bolton continued, “That meant that students would be able to apply for financial aid much earlier because they wouldn’t need their 2016 tax returns. It’s a real advantage to people to have a sense of what their college costs are going to be earlier. So what we did was try to make it possible for students to apply for financial aid and know what the charges are going to be already by late fall. In order to do that, you have to set the tuition. We moved the tuition decisions earlier so that students could apply for financial aid and actually know where they stood earlier on.”
The raise is consistent with a longer trend of rising tuition costs at the College. Since the 2001-2002 academic year, tuition has more than doubled, from $22,430 in 2001-2002 to $48,600 in 2017-2018. The raise from $46,860, the tuition rate for 2016-2017, to $48,600 is consistent with the rate of tuition increases from year to year over the past 17 academic years.
Since 2001-2002, the College has increased tuition between approximately 3.4 percent and 6.48 percent annually, with an average increase of approximately 4.9 percent.
While the College has steadily increased costs, financial aid grants approximately 85 percent of Wooster students some degree of financial assistance, mostly through the form of merit scholarships, making the “sticker price” tuition of $60,000 greater than the sum that most students will pay.
When asked about how the College goes about deciding tuition rates, Bolton said, “We try to think about what is necessary in order to sustain the College’s mission and also that will allow people to affordably come to the College. Our endowment is such so that it only supports approximately 20 percent of the cost to run the College. For us, the tuition and fees are very important for us to be able to do everything from paying professors’ salaries to keeping the buildings vertical. If we want our faculty and staff to have a cost of living increase, we know we need to increase tuition because there is no other revenue source that would be able to accommodate this increase in salary. There is a commitment that the College has so that people won’t fall behind the cost of living increases.”
The College is not alone nationally when it comes to trends in tuition increase over the past few decades. According to Ray Franke, a professor of education at the University of Massachusetts, college tuition has been rising about six percentage points above what the rate of inflation would suggest since the beginning of the 1990s.
Oftentimes this increase is attributed to the rise of ‘non-teaching positions’ at colleges and universities nationwide.
While Bolton agreed that this increase in administrative positions was also true of the College, she clarified that since “non-teaching” positions encompass every facet of the College beside professors, many of these positions are vital to the College’s operation, from new counselors in the Wellness Center to staff in the Center for Diversity and Inclusion and a full-time Title IX coordinator.
Comparatively, Wooster’s tuition remains relatively average amongst its comparable institutions.In the North Coast Athletic Conference, which forms the College’s most immediate consortium of peer institutions, Wooster’s tuition for 2017-2018 is fifth amongst nine other colleges, below Oberlin ($69,372), Kenyon ($65,840), Denison ($62,770) and DePauw ($60,637) but above Allegheny ($59,176), Ohio Wesleyan ($56,640), Wabash ($51,900), Wittenberg ($48,856) and Hiram ($43,230).
Amongst the colleges of the Great Lakes College Association, another of Wooster’s primary consortia, Wooster’s tuition lies amongst the mean, although it provides a greater degree of financial aid, according to Bolton.
The College’s steady increase in tuition raises questions regarding affordability and the ideal for an inclusive and accessible Wooster.
According to a survey by Sallie Mae, 55 percent of families in 2016 eliminated a college from consideration for attendance based purely on published price alone.
Furthermore, a study from Longmire and Company reported that 60 percent of families say that they are unaware that private colleges’ sticker price rarely represents the average cost of attendance.
When asked about the issue of affordability and its ramifications for the College, Bolton highlighted the need for the College to align itself with efforts to provide better information about tuition to prospective students.
“For us being part of those collaborative efforts is an important thing. For us individually […] some of it has to do with making sure that our admissions teams are visiting a wide variety of communities […] so we can explain what is available to students and make sure that families have an opportunity to get those questions asked.”