Climbing tuition meets student opposition

Andrea Wilson

Despite controversy over a plan to significantly increase tuition for incoming freshmen, the University Senate ultimately voted to approve next year’s administrative budget on Friday.

Student senators, including Commerce and Finance Senator Nick Bouknight and Arts Senators Stephen McKnight and Safeer Bhatti, voted against the budget because of their opposition to a plan that will raise tuition by $1,200 per semester for future classes.

Beyond the initial $1,200 increase, engineering freshmen will pay an additional $1,400 for the newly-instituted laptop program. Arts and Sciences and Commerce and Finance freshmen will pay an additional $620 for strategic initiatives within the college.

The Senate meets every February to discuss and vote on the proposed budget, but this year’s meeting, scheduled for last Friday, was cancelled due to the snowstorm. Senators had to vote for the budget electronically, which some considered a disadvantage.

“Because we voted electronically, there was no opportunity for discussion,” said Bouknight, who opposes the hike.

“It’s significantly more than the usual increase, and could create some resentment,” he said.

The increase will not affect the rates for current students, whose tuition will only be increased by the typical 4 percent, which corresponds to the inflation rate.

“The idea is that we don’t want to raise [tuition] for students already here,” explained Rick Sieber, executive director of Budgeting and Auxiliary Services. “We do it this way so that students can look at the price before they come here and decide what’s best for them.”

According to Sieber, a variety of University goals cause the demand for the extra funds. Academic quality and strategic initiatives will be allotted $850,000 next year.

“To continue to hire and retain the best faculty we can, we’ve budgeted $400,000. It’s extremely competitive right now to hire good faculty members,” Sieber said.

Financial aid funding and maintenance needs for the University’s buildings also contributed to the tuition climb.

Sieber explained that when determining next year’s tuition, the University compares itself to a group of peer institutions, including Boston College, Bucknell University, Lafayette University and Lehigh University. Villanova is normally ranked on the low end for tuition among this group, but with the tuition hike it will likely move closer to the middle. Sieber explained that the University’s room and board costs rank near the top of the group because it is near an urban center.

The University implemented similar hikes five or six times over the years, and “it’s worked for us in the past,” Sieber said.

“It’s a good budget, our enrollment continues to be strong, and the price increase is going to help us maintain and improve where we are and where we’re going.”