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When term bills hit mailboxes this summer, students at Harvard College will see the largest percent increase in a decade, as the cost of attending is slated to rise 5.5 percent, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) announced yesterday.
The official term bill—including tuition, room, board and mandatory fees—will rise to $37,928, a $1,978 increase over this academic year’s figure.
The last time FAS hit students with such a hefty percentage increase was the 1993-94 academic year.
While this year’s increase comes in the midst of a weak economy and a bear stock market that have decreased the amount many parents can afford to spend on their children’s education, Faculty leaders have pledged to keep Harvard affordable through its financial aid program.
“At a time when universities around the country, and families everywhere, can feel the effects of a weaker national economy, we are determined to protect every student’s ability to come to Harvard, regardless of his or her financial background,” Dean of the Faculty William C. Kirby said in a prepared statement.
To that end, the College’s financial aid budget will grow by 7.3 percent next year, according to Sally C. Donahue, director of financial aid for Harvard College.
“We will continue to meet the full demonstrated need of all students and families,” she said. “As [family] income changes we will continue to respond to that.”
Donahue said that Harvard was forced to raise tuition despite the generally gloomy economic times because it is seeing “across the board” increases in its costs and desires to maintain its current level of services and research facilities.
FAS spokesperson Andrea Shen explained that a “complex determination” goes into setting the tuition figures, with Faculty financial administrators taking into account factors such as the current national inflation rates both for prices paid by consumers as a whole and specifically for higher education costs.
While the size of tuition increases shrunk throughout the 1990s, this will mark the third year in a row in which tuition increases have grown.
The Faculty was able to fund increases in its expenditures for much of the last decade from increased returns off the enormous Harvard endowment. But the endowment’s negative returns over the past couple of years mean that windfall has dried up.
Even with yesterday’s announcement of the substantial hike in tuition, the Faculty faces a troubled financial future. Associate Dean for Finance Cheryl Hoffman-Bray told the Faculty Council last month that without budget cuts, FAS will face a deficit in 2005. Kirby instituted a “soft freeze on hiring” this fall in order to keep the Faculty from adding positions that it cannot afford in the long-run.
Harvard is not alone in facing tough financial realities.
Yale College is raising its cost 4.6 percent next year—the greatest rise for undergraduates in New Haven since 1995, according to the Yale Daily News.
Harvard’s increase in tuition falls within the range of tuition increases announced by other Ivy League schools for next year, according to Shen.
“Compared to our sister Ivies, Harvard’s tuition package for [next year] puts us roughly in the middle of the pack,” Shen wrote in an e-mail.
“We’re glad we’re one of the more affordable institutions out there.”
And even students attending public universities have not been immune from tuition rises, as states have been cutting back on higher education appropriations as tax revenues have plummeted over the past several years.
Earlier this month, University of Massachusetts trustees allowed campuses to raise student fees by up to $2,000 for next year.
—Jenifer L. Steinhardt contributed to the reporting of this story.
—Staff writer Daniel P. Mosteller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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