By Robert Toews
The Stanford Board of Trustees’ announcement last week of an increase in the cost of attendance for the 2010-11 academic year marks an attempt by the University to find a difficult balance between its stated revenue needs and the concerns of students and families weathering a trying economic climate.
Last week, the board voted to approve a 3.5 percent increase in total undergraduate charges — tuition, room and board — for the 2010-11 academic year. The increase will bring the total annual cost of a Stanford undergraduate education to $50,576.
While the cost of attendance will reach a historic high, this is the lowest that the annual tuition increase has been in over 30 years, a fact that board members and administrators attribute to their attempt to alleviate the effect of the current state of the economy on students’ and families’ wallets.
“In deciding upon a figure for this year, we were mindful of the recent economic crisis and the effect that it has had on household budgets,” said Tim Warner, the vice provost for budget and auxiliaries management. “We are trying to balance the twin objectives of, on the one hand, keeping Stanford competitive, but, on the other hand, recognizing that a tuition increase does affect families and students.”
Leslie Hume, chair of the board of trustees, also emphasized moderation in her initial announcement, saying that the University was “mindful of the economic hardships facing many Stanford students and their families.”
“We have tried both to moderate tuition and to ensure generous financial aid for those most in need,” Hume said following the board’s Feb. 8-9 meeting.
Some of the additional revenue from these increases could help fund salary increases for the University’s faculty and staff. The money will also help cover the University’s ever-increasing operating costs, according to Warner.
“One thing that is important to keep in mind is that revenue from tuition represents the school’s main source of unrestricted income, which is really critical because it gives us the most flexibility in terms of the projects that we can fund,” Warner said. “We use it to support pretty much all aspects of operating the University, as well as the fact that we hope to increase salary for our faculty and staff next year, which is something we were not able to do last year.”
These revenues will not come only from the undergraduate population. Trustees approved increases in graduate tuition as well, ranging from a 3.5 percent increase in tuition for general graduate students, entering MBA students and continuing medical students, to a 5.8 percent increase in law school tuition.
For undergraduates and their families, in particular, attention immediately turned from the cost of attendance to financial aid.
“One of the things that makes this tuition increase more manageable for families is the financial aid program that we have in place here at Stanford, which we feel is very competitive,” Warner said.
The board stated that the amount of money dedicated to undergraduate financial aid would increase proportionally to the tuition increase. In a news release, trustees said the University “expects to provide an equal amount” of financial aid as this year, when about 50 percent of undergraduates received approximately $112 million in aid.
Administrators thus confirmed that the financial aid program put in place in 2008 — which covers tuition, room and board for students whose families earn less than $60,000 and covers tuition for students whose families earn less than $100,000 — will continue.
The board’s decision was based in part on the fact that several peer institutions — notably, Princeton and Cornell — have announced comparable increases for the 2010-11 school year.
Undergraduate tuition will increase to $38,700 from $37,380; room costs to $6,700 from $6,411; and meal plans to $5,176 from $5,052.