Section: News

Tuition expected to grow annually by 3-4%

Tuition expected to grow annually by 3-4%

Kenyon’s tuition ranks among the highest in Ohio, and students should expect the price to continue increasing.

Tuition will continue to grow by about 3 to 4 percent annually, according to Joseph Lipscomb ’87, vice chair of the Board of Trustees and chair of the Board’s Budget, Finance and Audit committee. This is an approximate $2,000 increase for each incoming class. For the 2016-2017 academic year, Kenyon’s tuition rose by $2,000, which rougly translates to a 3.3 percent increase. That figure does not include mandatory charges and fees, like optional insurance, K-Card deposits or the student activities fee. This year’s tuition is $49,220 before room and board.

Annual spikes in tuition are a result of a number of different expenses, according to Todd Burson, vice president for finance. These include health insurance for faculty and staff, food costs, elements of the Master Plan, the creation of new faculty or administrative positions at the College and utility expenses. President Sean Decatur also attributed the rise in tuition to the fact that Kenyon’s endowment did not return its average rate of 4 to 5 percent last year. In fact the endowment lost 0.1 percent, which translates to about a $2,186,000 drop in value.

“We build the budget based on the fact that we will withdraw some percentage from the endowment each year as our payout, and typically that’s between 4 to 5 percent,” Decatur said. “If returns are flat, like last year, we are still taking out of the endowment, so the value goes down. So it actually reduces the funds that are available to draw out later.”

Burson said the College is trying to keep tuition manageable for students.

“The big thing for students is that they need to know that we’re trying to keep the increase as low as possible,” Burson said. “At the end of the day, it all comes back to the academic program at the college. With us not having a very big endowment compared to the other schools we’re competing against, when we spend a dollar on something it’s got to be well spent. It can’t be wasted.”

Once the endowment grows large enough, Decatur said, the College likely won’t have to raise tuition to pay for the expenses the endowment usually covers.

Burson and Decatur said students receiving need-based financial aid will not be affected by increased tuition rates; if tuition increases, need-based financial aid packages will increase too. Decatur added that a higher endowment will allow the College to give more financial aid to students.

Raising endowment funds for financial aid is a priority for Decatur, and he has previously said the College’s upcoming capital campaign will focus on fundraising for financial aid.

The Board of Trustees has regularly discussed a tuition freeze, which means an incoming student would pay the same price all four years. Burson, Lipscomb and Decatur agreed that, while this sounds good in theory, a freeze would ultimately make it harder for the College to cover all their costs.

“We don’t want to institute some policy or tuition freeze in place where it ties our hands behind our back so we can’t do what we need to do with academic programs,” Burson said.

Decatur said the price freeze model would “give more predictability for families,” as this plan would allow families to better plan for future tuition payments.

This model, however, means that the difference in payment between years could vary.

Kenyon’s tuition has consistently increased over the past few years. Since 2013, the price has increased by $5,320. Compared to the other Five Colleges of Ohio (College of Wooster, Ohio Wesleyan University [OWU], Denison University and Oberlin College), Oberlin Students pay the most: a price tag of $51,324, not including additional costs and fees. Students at Dennison, Wooster and OWU pay less, with tuition prices at $47,870, $46,860 and $43,770, respectively.

Mike Frandsen, the Vice President for Finance and Administration at Oberlin, also cited expenses as the main factor in a 2015 article on Oberlin’s website regarding why the College had to raise tuition annually.

These colleges’ tuitions increased by an average of $1,867 last year. This increase in tuition comes at a time when college expenses have garnered national attention, with presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump proposing reforms that they claim would lower the amount students have to pay.

Burson and Lipscomb blamed rising tuition partly on the inflation of the dollar. The College has had to traverse the rough terrain of current financial markets, Decatur said. This has continually driven up the cost of tuition, by making basic utilities more expensive each year.

Despite Kenyon’s relatively small endowment, Burson and Decatur added, the College is still able to stay competitive with other top-tier institutions.

“If there’s not 1700 students that want to come here and who have those average SAT scores of 1340, that would tell us that we’re not competitive,” Burson said. “That’s kind of how we’re able to beat those bigger schools without deflating our endowment, with the kind of programming we’re putting together is top quality,” Burson said.

“People say ‘Kenyon’s where I want to go,’” Burson added. “We’re a destination, not kind of a backup school.”


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