University announces increase in tuition costs

Kelsey Ruane

The University announced a 2.9 percent increase in tuition, fees, room and board for the 2010-’11 academic year in a letter mailed to the permanent addresses of all rising sophomores, juniors and seniors on Tuesday. The increase is the lowest in nearly 40 years.

The 2010-’11 academic year is the first that the total cost of undergraduate attendance will exceed $50,000, according to Ken Valosky, vice president for Administration and Finance.

In addition to the tuition increase, the letter reports a planned 11 percent increase to the budget for University-funded undergraduate financial assistance. The current budget saw a 9 percent increase in this area.

“The goal is to be able to meet full need,” Valosky said, referring to one of the main objectives of the University Strategic Plan, which serves to guide the University over a 10-year period in establishing a place for Villanova among the nation’s top schools.

The new budget, which goes into effect June 1, 2010, includes the start of a four-year process to add approximately 35 new, full-time faculty positions, primarily to the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. This comes after a hiring freeze that was lifted last semester.

The budget also includes a provision for 3 percent merit-based salary raises, after the fiscal year 2010 salary freeze. The salary and hiring freezes were intended to avoid the need for layoffs, which the University has not had to do, according to Valosky.

The 2010-’11 budget also includes the cost of renovating Sullivan and Sheehan halls over the next two summers.

Villanova was one of only three private universities in the nation in 2009 to receive an upgrade from Moody’s Investors Service, which cited the University’s “highly conservative fiscal management.”

“We will never spend more than we’ll take in,” Valosky said. “That’s been a guiding principle for the University.”

Though it has been affected by the recent economic downturn, the University has been able to weather much of the storm.

“We have the necessary discipline already in place, so it’s not a new concept to us,” Valosky said.

All departments were asked to free up 5 percent of their non-salary budgets, according to Valosky.

“We received little resistance to this,” Valosky said. “It demonstrated that everyone understands the economic conditions we’re in.”

The University was also able to refinance its debt at attractive rates, according to Valosky.

The Administrative Budget Committee, which includes the Finance and Administration department, Academic Affairs and Student Life, among others, looks at enrollment as one of the most important factors in determining the budget.

“We’re blessed that our students return at a much higher [retention] rate than at other institutions,” Valosky said.

The University is two years into a four-year plan to stabilize enrollment, according to Dean of Enrollment Management Stephen Merritt.The target admission for the class of 2014 is 1,630 students, in addition to 130 transfer acceptances.

This year has seen the second largest number of applicants, according to George Walter, associate dean of Enrollment Management, allowing the University to increase the quality and characteristics of its student body — another goal of the Strategic Plan.

In 1978, the cost of tuition was $3,200. Since then, the University has been subject to the trend of national inflation.

“We attempted to mitigate that [the tuition increase] by increasing the amount of financial aid that the University provides,” Merritt said. 

A portion of the budget is directed toward University Advancement, which endeavors to increase the University’s endowment through fundraising.

“Other private schools have three times the endowment than we do,” Valosky said, which is how they are able to meet all financial need.

The University’s 2.9 percent tuition increase compares favorably with a 3.8 percent increase at the University of Notre Dame, 3.5 percent at Stanford University, 4 percent for enrolled students at Providence College and 15 percent for the Providence College class of 2014. 

Tuition increases of 15 percent and 30 percent loom large for college students in Florida and California, respectively, according to an Associated Press article.

St. Joe’s University, Georgetown University and the University of Richmond have not yet released their tuition increases.