Area college tuitions to rise again

Posted: March 01, 2014

Despite President Obama's focus on the soaring costs of a college education, area universities are poised to again raise their prices in excess of the core rate of inflation.

Costs at the University of Pennsylvania in 2014-15 will exceed $60,000 for the first time, under a fee increase announced at the board of trustees meeting Thursday. That's a 3.9 percent increase over last year's overall tuition, fees, and room and board.

Several other private colleges and universities around the region also have set their cost increases for next year, ranging from a low of 3 percent at Swarthmore College to 4.4 percent at Immaculata University. The core rate of inflation is 1.6 percent.

Most public universities won't set rates until later in the spring, after state budgets are finalized.

School officials say they are increasing financial aid budgets to help students in need afford the additional cost - Penn will shell out nearly $200 million next year - and say the rising costs in salaries and other areas require a fee boost.

Penn also notes that it will continue to adhere to its policy of providing students with all grants and no loans to lessen their debt burden. Students on university aid - 47 percent of the student body - pay less to attend Penn than they did well before the policy started in 2009, officials said.

But some experts, concerned that college costs are increasing at a greater rate than family incomes, say schools must do more to control their price tag. To increase accountability, the Obama administration sometime this spring or summer is expected to unveil a college rating system that considers tuition among other measures.

"It strikes me that colleges should be working more assiduously than they are to try and avoid . . . tuition increases" that exceed the cost of inflation, said Richard Vedder, director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity. "From the sound of things, it doesn't appear the cries to do that are being heeded."

Joni Finney, vice president of the national Higher Education Policy Institute and a Penn education professor, said the increases at Penn and elsewhere seem to reflect no real policy rationale other than "that's what they think they can charge and get away with without students and others being too upset about it and without committees in Congress being too upset about it."

While Penn is taking care of needy students with its all-grants policy, "that is very hard to sustain," she said.

If tuition costs continue to increase, she said, "we're sort of setting ourselves up for failure."

Penn's total costs next year will be $61,132.

At Haverford College, the price tag is higher. Costs there also will increase by 3.9 percent, to $61,564. The increase, spokesman Chris Mills said, is necessary "to maintain the quality of our program."

Princeton University will raise tuition and room and board by 4.1 percent, to $55,440. An Ivy League university like Penn, it also provides all grants and increased its financial aid budget by more than eight percent.

Bryn Mawr College's total costs will rise to $59,890, up 3.7 percent.

At Swarthmore, costs are increasing to $59,610.

Immaculata will go to $44,880. The university, however, has a "fixed rate" tuition program, insuring freshmen that their tuition will remain the same all four years, said spokeswoman Lydia Szyjka.

Rosemont College's charges will run $43,480, which reflects a 2 percent increase in tuition and a 4 percent increase in room and board, officials said. Chestnut Hill College has increased undergraduate tuition 3 percent to $31,930. Room and board rates have not been set.

Ursinus College mailed letters to parents this week, announcing a 3.5 percent increase in tuition and in room and board: tuition will be $45,890; room and board, $11,500.

Some colleges have yet to release their charges for next year.

St. Joseph's, Neumann, Drexel, and Philadelphia Universities all plan to approve new charges in March.

215-854-4693 @ssnyderinq

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