By Kellen Bulger
Last week it was announced that the Board of Trustees approved a four percent increase in tuition for the 2018-19 academic year, meaning the current price will move from $47,840 to $49,750.
In a statement released by University Communications, a few details were provided as to why the tuition price has gone up. The statement said that this specific price will put Willamette’s tuition “… in the middle of its Northwest 5 peer institutions and in line with similar private colleges and universities nationally.”
Later on in the statement, it notes that “We are fully aware of the tremendous commitment made by students and their families to attend Willamette.” The statement does go on to address this “tremendous commitment” that it references by stating that, “… we continue to seek resources to help students and families”.
When speaking with the SBAC (Student Budget Advisory Committee) they were asked what exactly these “resources” are in University Communication’s statement. SBAC responded with “Dan [author of University Communication’s statement] is referencing financial aid. To help students, Advancement is working to increase gifts that go directly towards student financial aid.”
SBAC further touched on their involvement in the tuition increase decision. “In the fall we advocated for a lower increase than four percent. Tuition increases every year to cover the increased costs the university faces every year, such as inflation, increased cost of supplies, faculty and staff raises, health care and retirement benefits. In addition, because the University is going through budget reductions, a smaller increase in tuition means more cuts, so senior administrators are balancing that, annually increased costs, and staying competitive with peer institutions (Dan notes in his statement that four percent still keeps us in the middle of the pack compared to our peers). Also, importantly, a higher sticker price means that students who can afford to pay full price or close to full price contribute more which means Willamette can offer more in financial aid to students who need it.”
While the announcement of a higher tuition price is by no means an anomaly on a local or national level, it’s worth noting how drastic of a change we’ve seen in higher education cost over the past two decades. The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics put out a report that detailed the changing cost of college. According to the report, the average tuition cost of a private university in the U.S. was $16,233 for the 1997-98 academic year. The average cost of tuition for a private university for the 2017-18 academic year is $41,727. That’s a 157 percent increase. And this increase is small compared to the average out-of-state tuition for a public university, which has increased 194 percent over the same time period and the average in-state tuition seeing an additional increase of 237 percent from its average price in 1997-98.
One has to wonder what the future will hold for private universities whose yearly ticket prices are now standardly reaching 50k across the country. The future is especially intriguing when we are in a moment in which Oregon has become apart of a movement along with a handful of other U.S. states to offer programs in which high-school students who meet a few academic standards can attend community college for free.