The Board of Trustees approved a 4 percent tuition increase for undergraduates.
At their Friday meeting, the Board approved raising tuition from $42,308 this year to $44,020 in the 2013-2014 academic year. The total cost of attendance for undergraduates—which includes tuition, dining, room and board and other fees—will increase by 3.9 percent, bringing the total cost to $58,278, said Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations. On average, tuition increased 4.46 percent per year between 2002 and 2012.
Schoenfeld noted that the cost increases are based on careful analysis of the University’s finances.
“The University is—as are most universities—still recovering from the financial dislocations of the last few years so... the value of the endowment is really just now returning to what it was in 2008,” Schoenfeld said.
Jacob Vigdor, professor of public policy and economics, noted that annual tuition increases among institutions of higher education have come to be the norm.
“A university choosing zero as their increase would be the newsworthy thing. It would be a front page of The New York Times news item,” said Vigdor, an expert in education. “But this [tuition increase] is sort of what we’ve grown to expect over a very long period of time.”
Among the schools in the Consortium on Financing Higher Education—a group of 31 private colleges and universities dedicated to analyzing the finances of higher education—Duke’s average tuition increases have historically been below the median, Provost Peter Lange said. He added that he believes that trend will continue this year.
“Our programs are changing and, we’d say, improving over time, so there’s some expectation that as programs improve, you might also get pressures to increase tuition,” Lange said. “Those are standard drivers we have.... There is nothing exceptional about this year.”
Sophomore Tommy Chen noted that although he does not appreciate the raise in tuition, he understands why the decision was made. “When every other university among its caliber is doing the same, raising tuition seems the most acceptable means of raising money,” Chen said. “The system is imperfect, and I disapprove of some spending decisions—most recently the renovation of West Union—but I think tuition increases are unfortunately necessary to keep pace with expenses and inflation.”
In addition to the upswing in undergraduate tuition, the graduate and professional schools will see increases, as well. On average, Divinity School tuitions will increase by 4 percent across seven degree programs, Lange said. Tuition at the Fuqua School of Business, which varies substantially between six degree programs, will increase by 3.5 percent. Sanford School of Public Policy tuitions will increase by 2 percent, School of Law tuitions will increase by 3.7 percent across multiple programs, and tuitions for the Nicholas School for the Environment will increase by 3.6 percent across multiple programs. Ph.D. program tuitions will increase by an average of 3.9 percent.
Junior Melissa Miller said she does not see the necessity of increasing tuition year after year.
”They already make us pay so much,” she noted. “That being said, as long as they also increase the amount of money they give to students on financial aid—me included—I am OK with it.”
Schoenfeld also noted that amidst the University’s continued recovery from the 2008 financial crisis, Duke is still committed to its need-blind admissions policy and meeting the full demonstrated need of every admitted student.
Although tuition has steadily increased in recent years, the state of financial aid is “doing better,” said Alison Rabil, assistant vice provost and director of financial aid. The number and size of financial aid packages, which has spiked since the financial crisis, seems to be leveling out, she added. How the 2013-2014 academic year fits into this trend, however, cannot be verified until all students’ financial aid packages have been finalized.
Vigdor noted that even though many universities commit to providing financial aid, increasing tuition numbers may give potential applicants “sticker shock.” This sometimes pushes them not to apply.
“This is the problem that’s kind of vexing higher education, particularly elite higher education,” Vigdor said. “We know that the [Free Application for Federal Student Aid] is insane—there are lots of families that look at that form, and they just throw up their hands and give up. So long as they do that, we’ve got a problem.”
In other business
The Board approved renovations to Gilbert-Addoms residence hall, intended to increase the amount of common space and make the building accessible to disabled people.
Trustees also signed off on the School of Medicine’s Division of Neurology transition to a department and developing the International Comparative Studies major into a program.
The Board meeting will continue on Saturday in a retreat style to discuss broad topics such as the future of higher education, online courses and the value of a Duke education.
updated 12:45 a.m. Feb. 25