Total cost of attendance set to increase nearly 6 percent in 2011-2012

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The cost of attending DePauw for the 2011-2012 academic year will increase from the current amount to a total price of $46,700. The University’s decision was announced Friday.

The new figure, which the board of trustees approved at January’s meeting, marks a 5.9 percent increase over the previous cost of $44,085. This increase represents a steeper climb in cost than the previous two academic years, with increases of 4.99 percent last year and 4.39 percent two years ago.

The figure includes costs for tuition, room, board, a health services fee and a student activity fee. Tuition increased $2,060 from $36,500 last year, the cost of rooms increased by $290 to $5,120, and board increased by $260 to $4,610. The health services fee was raised by $5 to $265. The student activity fee remains unchanged at $205.

Many variables determine the cost increases from year to year. Salaries, utilities and insurance costs all play a role. The amount of money coming into the DePauw Annual Fund is also taken into consideration. Money from the annual fund is used in part to underwrite some of the University’s operating costs.

According to Chris Wells, vice president for communications and strategic initiatives, the annual fund reduces the cost of attendance for each student anywhere from about $10,000 to $15,000.

In a letter to faculty and staff, President Brian Casey emphasized that the university, along with nearly all its peer institutions, is still facing economic challenges caused by the recession. He mentioned that while financial gifts to the university have increased since the 2008-2009 academic year — when the economy reached its lowest point — they have not fully recovered. Furthermore, the university has taken out approximately $4.5 million from the operating budget to make up for revenue shortfalls.

Most years, cost increases at DePauw range from 4 to 6 percent, Wells said. Despite higher annual costs, he believes the benefits of attending the university makes the investment worthwhile.

“We provide a high quality of education at a lower cost, unlike many of our peers,” he said.

Wells noted that along with the cost increase, financial aid will also increase, as he said the university understands the struggle of many families in the difficult economic climate. Although the budget will not receive final approval until the board of trustees meets in May, Wells said he anticipates the university will increase total financial aid by around $2.3 million.

The trustees did not actually draft the cost increases, said board chair Sarah Wallace ‘76.  Rather, the trustees considered a recommendation put forth by the president’s cabinet. After a lengthy presentation to the trustees concerning the financial aid process, administrators then presented their recommendation to the trustees sitting on the Business and Financial Affairs Committee. Once the measure passed the committee, Wallace said the entire board unanimously approved the university recommendation without changes.

“Speaking on behalf of the board, we must make sure we are being good stewards of money coming into the university and making sure that DePauw remains accessible,” Wallace said, noting the trustees have to balance the need to contain costs without detriment to the “DePauw Experience.”

Despite passage several weeks ago, DePauw administrators decided to keep the totals private until Friday. Along with a board protocol of not releasing tuition figures immediately, Wells said university administrators needed time to construct the message in a positive manner, given the sensitivity of the subject.

Some students expressed concern over the tuition increase, questioning its necessity in a time of economic hardship.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea for people who are paying,” said freshman Pritha Rajouria, expressing concerns regarding the already-steep costs of a DePauw education.

However, Rajouria mentioned she would not oppose the tuition increase if the university increased the benefits of attendance as well. For example, she said that if the university continues to increase costs, she would like to see more variety in courses offered at the university, notably in fields such as international relations.

Junior Tammy Taylor is concerned about situations where a family’s financial situation changes dramatically, making a DePauw education financially unrealistic. Still, Taylor remains confident that the University can make four years work out financially.

“If [the University] says they will increase financial aid, I hope they follow through,” she said.