Tuition, room and board to increase 3.6 percent

Lee Betancourt

Returning students and incoming freshmen will face a 3.6 percent overall increase in tuition, room, board and fees for the 2007-’08 school year. This will bring the average cost of attending the University for incoming freshmen and rising sophomores to $44,727 per year, a trend that follows national inflation rates and the rates of other universities.

Tuition is increasing by 4 percent to $34,320 for freshmen and sophomores, a price that includes the University-given laptop. Fees will remain constant at $580. Average room will increase to $5,217 and average board to $4,610 for this group of students.

“This increase of 4 percent for tuition and 3.6 percent overall is a very moderate increase not only for Villanova, but also compared to our competitors,” Vice President for Finance Kenneth Valosky said.

In an attempt to keep pace with tuition increases, the amount of money available for non-athletic financial aid will increase to approximately $46 million from nearly $41 million, with $35.5 million going to need-based programs, a number that is up from $31.5 million.

“Four out of 10 Villanovans get [need-based] grant money, and six out of 10 Villanovans get some form of financial assistance,” Dean of Enrollment Management Stephen Merritt said. “As our tuition increases, so does our commitment to financial aid. We try to keep the University accessible to people from all walks of life.”

Two of the outside factors that determine tuition are inflation rates and tuitions at other universities. The national inflation rate for the University’s fiscal year (June 1, 2005-May 31, 2006) was 4.3 percent nationally and 4.4 percent in Philadelphia, Valosky said.

“It shows a pretty reasonable approach,” Valosky said.

Tuition at Villanova’s closest competitors will also increase. Boston College will increase tuition by 6.5 percent for 2007-’08, while Notre Dame, Holy Cross and Bucknell will increase their tuitions by 5.4, 5.5 and 5.9 percent, respectively.

“When you consider just the tuition, we are the lowest, and none of the other schools are providing a laptop,” Valosky said.

Although the financial numbers of other schools are not available during the planning of the budget and subsequent tuition, the Budget committee tries to be “prudent and reasonable,” when considering tuition relative to the numbers at other schools, Valosky said.

Students will not only receive a laptop as part of their tuition rate, but also will see other signs of where their tuition goes.

The University is adding new departments of Geography and the Environment and Environmental Science, offering a new Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry and a concentration in East Asian studies, Merritt said. Also, the University’s wireless environment is being expanded.

“A lot of money is being added to the University experience at a very modest cost,” Merritt said. “I think it’s safe to say that while no one wants tuition increased, our students don’t want anything but the quality of the experience to go up, too.”

Valosky said that the fastest growing costs for the University are salaries and benefits, both of which are interior determinants of tuition costs. Of particular burden to the University are health insurance costs, he said.

Between 2004 and 2008, University salary expenses will grow by 23.9 percent, while benefit expenses will grow by 33.2 percent. In that same period, however, financial aid expenses will increase by 36.1 percent.

This coming year, the salaries of the lowest 350 University workers will be increased on average by 19 percent. These workers largely constitute Dining Services employees, Valosky said. This increase is compared to an overall increase of 4 percent for University faculty and staff for 2007-’08.

In order to continue academic progress, the University always has to be concerned with its faculty and staff, Merritt said.

“We have to continue to recruit great people to come here [to teach] because a number of our good professors will eventually be retiring,” Merritt said. “We have to replace great people with new great people, and that takes resources.”

Merritt also mentioned that while the University’s high faculty retention rate increases salary costs, these professors have a lot of experience to contribute in the classroom and with students.

“We’re under more competitive pressure,” Valosky said. “It certainly brings to the table the need to be more competitive in salaries.”

Although salaries and benefits take up a large part of the University budget, expenses in the realm of University maintenance will also have increased dramatically from 2004 to 2008.

Utility expenses will increase 36.7 percent, and other operating expenses will increase by 32.6 percent.

Overall, all University expenses will increase by 27.4 percent between 2004 and 2008.

“Obviously, we’re a tuition-dependent University,” Valosky said. “But we realize that tuition does not cover all of the costs of attending Villanova University so we rely on the generosity of alumni and on our endowment when looking at the operating budget.”

Valosky said that between alumni donations, the University’s endowment and interest earnings on the University’s operating cash, around $2,500 per student is covered each year.

Yet even as these amounts increase particularly in the area of alumni annual fund donations which Valosky said are up by “a couple hundred thousand a year,” he does not expect tuition growth to level off in the near future.

“I wish I could say that it would plateau out, but it doesn’t seem likely,” he said. “It’s not [entirely] under our control, so we make no promises on it.”

Still, “We try to ensure that for what we charge for tuition that students receive an excellent experience,” he said.

This philosophy is part of the University’s current Academic and Strategic Plan.

The plan has four parts, including offering “transformational learning experiences,” such as the Augustine and Culture Seminar, research opportunities for undergrads and expanded study abroad opportunities; promoting faculty excellence in teaching through VITAL, the Villanova Institute for Teaching and Learning; adding combined undergraduate/graduate programs; and offering expanding service to the community, Merritt said.

“The plan is a challenge to fund,” Merritt said, “[but] it makes the University a lot more attractive to prospective students and their parents.”