On Monday, March 18, President Shirley Ann Jackson sent an e-mail to every member of the Rensselaer community about the Institute’s budget for Fiscal Year 2014. Among others, the updates included a 4.0 percent increase to undergraduate and graduate tuition, raising next year’s charges to $45,100 per student per year. Room and board costs also increased by 4.0 percent.
This is not the first time tuition has increased by such an amount. In fact, since 1996, the lowest one-year increase in tuition was 3.1 percent. According to a speech made by Jackson during the 2005 Spring Town Hall Meeting, “The Board of Trustees approved the smallest tuition increase in 12 years—since 1996. The approved 3.1 percent increase in undergraduate and graduate tuition for the 2009-2010 academic school year was made possible by the steps we took since the onset of the economic crisis in September.” The highest increase since 2004—the most recent year for which this information is readily available to students—was 7.1 percent and approved by the Board of Trustees for the 2007–2008 academic year. The result of this constant increase in tuition has led to an approximate 62.8 percent increase in tuition since the 2003–2004 academic year, with an average increase of 4.99 percent per year.
Since the spring of 2004, Jackson has explained in her e-mails and Town Hall Meetings that the reasoning behind the increases has primarily been focused around the economic downturn. She has added, on multiple occasions, that RPI is not alone when it comes to increasing costs. “We are beginning to see tuition increases enacted by other universities in a comparable range,” she mentioned in her e-mail disbursed on March 18.
Jackson’s statements hold true for the tuition increases at the Rochester Institute of Technology. For the 2003-2004, RIT’s tuition was $21,027 while RPI’s was approximately $27,703. It has since increased by 61.4 percent to $33,932 for the upcoming academic year. The average increase in tuition for RIT was nearly the same as RPI’s at 4.9 percent.
Boston College has had similar tuition amounts to RPI. The school’s tuition for the 2003-2004 year was $27,080. Boston College has set a tuition of $44,870 for the 2013-2014 school year—just $230 less than RPI’s own—showing a total increase of 65.7 percent in tuition. The average increase per year for the college was 5.18 percent, which is also higher than RPI’s.
As the increases have continued, students have shown continued discontent. During the 2012 Spring Town Hall Meeting, a number of students expressed their concerns. At that time, Jackson reiterated her comment regarding the fact that other institutions of higher learning are also increasing their costs. In response to the latest increase, several students have expressed their concerns on the website Reddit. “Tuition has gone off the deep end, and as long as students keep accepting, they’ll keep having crippling debt. Set them up for failure before they even graduate,” stated one student. Another student continued with this thought, saying, “It seems they charge what they want because they can, and the prices haven’t noticeably affected enrollment. It seems to me the school is being run more as a for-profit business than as a place genuinely concerned with educating and/or otherwise helping its students.”
The e-mail Jackson sent out also included information about the Institute’s budget as a whole, as well as financial aid numbers, information regarding academic and research enterprises, and employee compensation. “The overall operational budget for Fiscal Year 2014 amounts to $394.4 million. As always, it represents a balanced budget,” read the e-mail. Graduate student stipends were also increased to $18,000.
Jackson said that the Institute will attempt to fill 60 tenure and tenure-track faculty positions, including nine constellation hires. At the same time, though, she said, “We must anticipate that the next several years will continue to prove economically challenging for our country and the world. Rensselaer, like other universities, has not been immune. Staff attrition will be managed aggressively to achieve savings. Strategic direction and focus have never been more critical.”
For more information about the Institute’s tuition increases or anything else regarding RPI’s finances, members of the Rensselaer community may attend Jackson’s annual Town Hall Meeting, to be held on April 3 at 1 pm in the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center Theater.