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SMC tuition increase to grow for 2006-07

Laura Baumgartner | Tuesday, March 28, 2006

As costs and inflation continue to rise, tuition increases will once again lighten Saint Mary’s students’ pockets next year.

The March 21 announcement of a planned five percent increase in tuition and fees and three percent increase in room and board at the College has raised concern among students across campus.

The Board of Trustees considered the proposed increase at meetings on Feb. 23 and 24, and voted to approve a greater change in tuition than it originally planned. The average cost of attendance for a resident student will rise from $32,538 this year to $34,005 next year.

“A three-percent increase in the room and board rate is the amount used in the multi-year projections we utilize as part of our planning process,” Vice President of Finance and Administration Laurie Stickelmaier said. “We had originally projected a four percent increase in tuition, but substantial increases in utilities and benefits costs last year moved the Board to approve an increase of five percent.”

Though some students are concerned about the increasing cost of attending Saint Mary’s, Stickelmaier said rising inflation rates and expenses incurred by the College have rendered the increase inevitable.

“Saint Mary’s, like colleges and universities across the country, raises tuition and fees in an effort to keep pace with inflation and stay operationally strong,” Stickelmaier said.

Despite the logic behind the increase, online campus forums have been flooded with unsatisfied student reactions spurring debates about the reasons for and necessity of the decision.

“It can be understood, to a degree, why increases are made,” sophomore Mary Catenacci said. “But it is faulty policy, given the economic climate, for students to bear the brunt of increased administrative expenditures, some [of which] may be questionable in validity.”

While students recognize the influence of economic changes on the cost of attending college, sophomore Erin Scott said the reality of student loans and the incurred debt many students will face after graduation has created a negative perception of rising costs.

“Scott doesn’t understand why the tuition increase is so large each year.

“I am faced with the very real prospect of quite a lot of debt,” Scott said. “The current issue of rising tuition costs does absolutely nothing to ease my worries.”

Questions have also been raised about the effect the increase will have on enrollment and the diversity of students who will consider Saint Mary’s as an option – something the College has struggled with in recent years.

Senior Stephanie Mason said tuition increases are nothing foreign to her, as they have occurred annually since her freshman year. She expressed concerned, however, that the most recent change will be taking it too far.

“Before we know it, the [number] of students here will probably decrease because tuition plus room and board are going to hit the roof and be too expensive for most students to afford,” Mason said.

Stickelmaier said she did not believe the increase would have a negative impact on enrollment.

“As a tuition-driven institution, the money will fund basic operating costs at the school,” Stickelmaier said.

The Saint Mary’s tuition increases also compare favorably to those at other colleges and universities across the nation, she said.

“Based on a recent analysis, the average tuition increase for selected private institutions last year was 6.2 to 6.4 percent. The tuition increase at Saint Mary’s is also significantly below the rate of increase at many public colleges across the country, which can reach the double digits.”

Next year’s increase will be higher than the four-percent rise in tuition and three-percent rise in room and board students paid this year, but the change will still be below increases made at other institutions, she said.