From the previous school year to the current school year, Colorado College’s tuition increased by six percent making it $43,812 with an additional $10,312 for basic room and board. Although it is easy to be infuriated by the ever-increasing numbers, the fact is that as the tuition increases, CC not only maintains its educational prestige, but actually enhances it.
CC is a tuition-dependent institution in that we rely on tuition to fund operations. Beyond the basic electricity, water, and heating necessities, the tuition also provides professors with salaries desirable enough to return each year, students with off-campus study opportunities, facilities with high quality equipment, and access to resources uncharacteristic of many other colleges nationwide.
Before becoming the Assistant Vice President for Institutional Planning and Effectiveness, Lyrae Williams was the Director of Budget at CC for the past six years. She explained, in general terms, the process behind the budget analysis. “The first major indicator is, what do we have to do just to continue to operate? How much do we need to keep us stable? And then how much do we need to improve who we are?” Williams said.
Unfortunately, the basic level of maintenance at CC varies year to year depending on the economy, which leaves the majority of the factors outside of CC’s control. For example, the health care provided for faculty members increases approximately five to ten percent each year, which is faster than tuition increases.
However, tuition only accounts for about 62 percent of the school’s budget. Auxiliary services such as the dining halls, residential living, and the bookstore generate another 12 percent, and another 17 percent is covered by the endowment.
“Students that can pay full price are not subsidizing other students. It comes from the endowment,” Williams said. Essentially, the endowment reduces the comprehensive fee for all students, but individuals on financial-aid receive more of a discount than those that can afford the full price. No student pays the realistic comprehensive fee because the endowment, thankfully, reduces it.
Director of Financial Aid, Jim Swanson, commented on the increase in financial aid as a result of the increasing tuition. In the current incoming class, roughly 44 percent receive need-based financial aid. Both Swanson and Williams highlighted the difficulty in attempting to foster a more diverse environment while keeping the tuition low.
“If we’re going to keep the number of students on need-based aid, then yes, the tuition has to increase. This is the ‘discount rate’ right now, and we try to keep it around 31 to 33 percent. To increase that [rate] will cost more in tuition,” Swanson said. Consistent with the past few years, currently about 65 percent of the tuition funds the staff and Financial Aid alone.
After calculating the cost to function at an equivalent level, the Budget Committee next determines the priorities of the upcoming year. The committee consists of eleven members: three faculty members, two staff, two students, a member of the President’s cabinet, the Dean of Faculty or Dean of College, the Dean of Students, and the Vice President for Finance.
Dean Sandi Wong and Vice President of Finance and Administration Robert Moore are both members of the committee. “Specifically, this year, increased funds were utilized to assure that the financial aid funds available to the entering class in 2013 were comparable to previous entering classes; to provide salary increases for faculty and staff as the College continues to work toward the goal of paying competitive salaries to CC employees; to improve the student experiences at CC (funds were used to increase and standardize student research funding, reduce study abroad fees, and increase the number of paraprof positions); to provide funds for staffing and operating the new fitness center and to reduce the staffing costs which were being charged to the student activity fee budget,” Moore said.
“We want to invest in the core, and the core is the teaching. But its also the programs, the off-campus experiences – expanding those – more faculty who are not traditionally doing field work can think about doing field work. The off-campus courses makes us really great, and to keep the quality high, sometimes you have to move the price up to maintain or enhance it. It’s a fine balance,” Williams said.
Administration is unable to prematurely disclose tuition rates because they could be accused of collusion, or communicating with other institutions and “fixing the price.” When constructing a budget, it is important to consider the future, and usually the committee will outline ahead about three to ten years. That being said, Moore and Wong estimate that the percentage increase for next year will be equal to or lower than the increase in 2013. The Board of Trustees will make the decision in February.
“The college has a strategic plan that is very ambitious and proactive in making this a more wonderful place for students to get a quality education. With that comes a price tag. We want to ensure small classes, study-abroad programs, and a high quality of life. But CC is also very proactive in saving money through sustainability and the ways we manage the college so the price doesn’t come back on the students,” Swanson said.
The increasing tuition is a reflection of CC’s desire to continually enrich each student’s experience. President Tiefenthaler’s Strategic Plan delineates specific changes for the future.
For instance, CC is in the process of eliminating course fees for classes that travel for the block in hopes of providing all students with equal opportunities to take every class. Scholarships are always growing as well, and financial aid continues to mirror the rising tuition.
“[The] immediate thing is that the college is investing in the core of what we do – making sure we have a diverse, highly qualified faculty that are teaching. We are a service industry, and there are expenses for having people rather than robots, and that’s a benefit to students. We want to recruit the best and the brightest that can meet the challenge of teaching here,” Williams said.