As the Board of Trustees winter meeting concluded, the full-time tuition for the 2014-2015 academic year was set at $42,357. Together with room, board and other fees, the total comprehensive fee is $51,465, which represents a 3.5% increase in tuition and 3.51% increase in total fees for next year.
Lawrence’s Vice President for Finance and Administration Christopher Lee said that the annual tuition increases essentially occured because of inflation.
Lee said it is a giant struggle in higher education to balance the institution’s needs, education quality and the financial situations of students and their families.
“We take every dollar seriously, especially those from our students and their families,” Lee said. A lot of analysis was done before making the decision, and the Financial Aid Office tends to increase at a slightly slower pace compared to Lawrence’s peer schools.
Lee said that the demands of the institution are big, and as the school ages, it gets more expensive. The school needs to pay for the buildings, faculty members, diverse student body, invest more on student aid, and so on.
“The biggest portion of our cost is on people,” Lee said. The majority of the money spent is the salary of the faculty and staff. Lee said that the relatively low cost of living in Wisconsin is a benefit for an institution to balance their financial situation.
Lee said they are looking for several initiatives to try to save or earn some money for the institution. When they can build a better balance between incoming dollars and outgoing expenses on managing their expenses, they will be able to work on things like financial aid, scholarship and investing Lawrence faculties.
Lee said, “It is this ever-changing balance of investment and opportunity and the fickleness of stock markets […] We have very good leadership on how to balance that.”
Notification emails about the tuition increase were sent to students on Friday, Jan. 31. Students have various opinions about the increase.
Sophomore Huong Nguyen is not too worried about the change in tuition. She said when she was admitted, she was informed that the tuition increases every year. Nguyen said that the inflation happens almost all the time, so “it [the increase in tuition] is something they have to do, even though they don’t want to. I understand.”
Sophomore Jocelyn Polczynski is a transfer student at Lawrence. To her, the tuition raise is stressful. She said she does not look forward to dealing with her parents because they will be worried about the increased debt.
Polczynski said that although the faculty and her study at Lawrence are worth the money, the raise in tuition is frightening. “It is honestly scary that it is a huge concern that I am going to have a lot of debt, and it is not helpful.” She believes there are better ways for schools to spend their money.
“I was really nervous when I got the email,” said freshman Kin Lee. She also believes her parents will be nervous as well, since they may not be able to afford her four years of college expenses.
Freshman Cody Poole said that he understands the university needs to raise the cost sometimes, but there should be a way for students to know where the money is going and why the increase is necessary.
Poole said, “I think the university should make sure the students can understand [the raise] without any need to look into it, because it is a significant amount of money […] It should be very obvious why it is necessary.”
Junior Sanfer D’souza was stressed by the change in tuition. “We have smart people at Lawrence. We should be able to figure something out,” he said, referring to a way to keep costs down for students.