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Cornell University announces 4 percent tuition increase

Cornell University’s reformed tuition and financial aid has caused controversy across campus.
Cornell University’s reformed tuition and financial aid has caused controversy across campus.
By David Stern and Will Uhl

Cornell University’s administration announced a tuition hike of nearly 4 percent next year, costing all undergraduate students an additional $1,830.

The change puts the 2015–16 tuition for endowed and out-of-state students at $50,712, according to the Cornell Chronicle, the university’s official newsletter. The administration also announced upcoming changes to financial aid, including plans to admit international students more selectively depending on their need level.

The decision has been decidedly unpopular with Cornell’s student association, who have staged protests during student association meetings. On Feb. 12, members of the association donned butterfly wings with tape over their mouths in protest of the lack of student input. The university’s administration has yet to comment on the demonstration.

Avery Becker is a senior Food Science major at Cornell, and though he hasn’t participated in any demonstrations, the change doesn’t entirely sit well with him.

“I know incredible students who receive substantial financial aid and it makes me uncomfortable that Cornell would move towards an international need-aware application system, given how life-changing a degree could be for people across the world,” he said.

But he also acknowledges that the issue is multifaceted.

“I suppose that domestic students may not be subjected to these application changes because Cornell is in fact a U.S. university, and certain state and federal funding is reserved for citizens,” he said.

Students feel the pressure of rising tuitions outside Cornell, including its neighbor Ithaca College. Ithaca College President Tom Rochon announced on Feb. 16 that tuition would increase 2.59 percent for the 2016-2017 academic year, bringing the cost of tuition and standard room and board to $56,766. However, it also brings a $9 million increase to institutional aid.

According to Gerald Hector, Ithaca College’s vice president of finance and administration, institutional aid (financial aid coming directly from the college) has increased from $55.2 million to $118 million — a 113.8 percent increase — over the past 10 years. This makes institutional aid the second-largest expense at Ithaca College, behind salaries and benefits, and helps ease cost burden on students and their families.

A junior at Ithaca College studying speech language pathology, Jacquelynn Vogel works at the Circle Apartment Mailroom to mitigate her loan.

“It just seems very unfair that we have to work so hard throughout college, and we still can’t pay for it ourselves,” she said. “Even after graduation, we’re still going to be paying off these debts for years to come.”

Despite the seemingly endless growth of college tuition, many schools are actually experiencing their lowest percentage tuition increase since the mid-70s. Though the tuitions are still climbing, there seems to be a wave of progress across the country as colleges and universities feel the pressure to respond to increasing unhappiness over tuition prices.

According to a recent study done by College Board, Trends in College Pricing, the national average rate of tuition increase for the past five years is between 10 and 11 percent, depending on whether the institution is private or public. This is down from 1985, when the average five-year rate of increase was between 26 and 30 percent. For the most part, the mid-to-late ‘80s saw the highest rates of tuition increase. Now the average cost at a private nonprofit four-year school is $32,405, but when accounting for inflation, the rate of increase is much more reasonable than in past years.

Even Ithaca College students without loans felt uneasy with the system, such as junior Meredith Harris.

“If tuition keeps going up it’ll probably get worse, because I think more and more people would not be able to afford college, or just be suffering in student loans [which will] impact everyone’s life later on,” she said.

Colleges and Universities are beginning to show a serious interest in decreasing their tuition growth — Cornell’s upcoming tuition raise was the lowest in years — but it is clear that big changes are needed to avoid the annual controversy of tuition increases.

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