March 11, 2022 | NEWS | By Hank Bedingfield | Illustration by Patil Khakhamian
Tuition at Colorado College is set to rise 4.8% in the 2022-23 academic year to a whopping $64,554, according to an email from President L. Song Richardson sent on Feb. 25.
CC has raised its tuition more than $9,000 in the past five years, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics. The Catalyst spoke with student leaders around campus in addition to the co-chair of the Budget Committee, the organization responsible for recommending the raise to President Richardson and the Board of Trustees.
“I can see a lot of understandable reasons why a dollar figure in tuition going up is going to cause a lot of anxiety,” said Dekyos Damtew ’22, president of the Colorado College Student Government Association. “But I think the bigger question that is facing not just CC but higher education in general is it seems really unsustainable just to continuously have tuition increasing year after year after year.”
Nationwide, the pandemic has put many colleges in a financial squeeze, facing a slew of unforeseen, money-sucking burdens. CC is no exception.
The college, in President Richardson’s email, cites three main drivers for the tuition increase: COVID-19 expenses, giving students more food dollars, and inflation. Dan Johnson, co-chair of the Campus Budget Committee, spoke with The Catalyst to clarify the budget process, which he acknowledged as “nebulous.”
“Tuition reproducibly increases, as the price of almost everything nationwide,” Johnson said. “When you consider that the majority of what we pay for out of tuition dollars is people, it’s hard to tell those people, ‘you can’t have a pay raise to keep up with inflation.’”
The college, according to Johnson, spent millions of dollars on HVAC systems, personal protection equipment, and continued testing — in response to COVID-19. Food service, reeling from pandemic-related aftershocks, has struggled with staff retention, supply chain issues, and continued, quality service. Bon Appétit, the on-campus food provider for CC, has been challenged by those issues and more — all of which is an added expense.
The increased tuition will also contribute to more forward-looking college goals, including the expansion of the Student Opportunities and Advising Hub and other measures not included in previous budgets.
“We are allocating significant resources towards our anti-racism commitment. By that I mean, this is not just pie in the sky, not just philosophy. We want to put our money where our mouth is,” Johnson said. “We have to hire people. We have to install programming. We have to set up procedures.”
The campus also allocated more than a third of the increased tuition to financial aid, contributing to the $54.5 million per year the college currently spends on financial aid.
Even so, accessibility remains a two-fold worry for some students. The numbers and mechanisms of a college budget demand hours of engagement and come with a steep learning curve. A price tag in the tens of thousands could also dissuade medium to low-income students from even considering CC.
Sierra Romero ’22, president of the 32% Club, a student organization dedicated to discussing issues that affect students on need-based aid, still has concerns. While the club has not been active this year, Romero provided personal insight.
“Tuition at Colorado College is already a daunting total cost, something that almost dissuaded myself and other students from attending,” she said in a correspondence to The Catalyst. “While it’s somewhat comforting to know that some money from increased tuition will go to future students on financial aid, ⅓ still seems like a disproportionate number.”
46.7% of students at CC are full-paying, the rest (53.3%) receive some form of aid, according CC’s Student Demographic webpage. This proportional discrepancy, between one third and just over half, stands out to Romero. Romero also voiced questions surrounding transparency.
“At the end of the day, I think we (myself, my friends, and some other peers) all would just like more transparency about this change,” she said. “It would be nice to know the logic behind increasing tuition, where the money is going, and how the college plans on ensuring that students on financial aid won’t receive any short end from this outcome.”
In the interest of transparency and inclusion, The Budget Committee includes two student representatives from CCSGA. Johnson would encourage those interested to take their curiosity a step further.
“The more engagement, the more students, individually or collectively, the better,” said Johnson. “That occasionally means getting into the nitty-gritty, the nuts and bolts, the things that are not terribly comfortable to learn about or inspect.”
As tuition continues to increase yearly, it’s up to students to make sure they’re a priority when the money is spent.
“Taking the time as students to ask questions is something that I hope we continue to do,” Damtew said from behind the CCSGA desk. “I think we’ve been asking great questions so far about where are these things going [and] how we get our needs prioritized?”