Tufts administrators explain tuition increases for next academic year

(Astrid Weng / The Tufts Daily)

Tuition and fees for undergraduates for the 2017–2018 academic year will be $68,372, a 3.61 percent increase from last year’s $65,996. This projected cost, which does not include books and personal expenseswas announced in an email sent out on March 10 from Dean of Arts and Sciences James Glaser and Dean of Engineering Jianmin Qu.

Administrators said the increase was needed to maintain campus housing, dining and facilities. Glaser told the Daily in an email that tuition does not provide all the revenue the school uses to operate and that the university also relies heavily on money from grants and philanthropy.

“We have taken aggressive steps to control costs and to minimize increases while still providing a first-rate educational experience. Certain costs, however, continue to rise faster than revenues and fundraising, making a tuition increase necessary,” Patrick Collins, executive director of public relations, told the Daily in an email.

In response, members of Tufts Student Action (TSA) contend that administrators have not provided sufficient justification for the increase and that continually rising costs of attendance will undercut Tufts’ socioeconomic diversity. The undergraduate cost of attendance at Tufts has risen every year in the past decade, according to the university’s Fact Book. Between the 2011–2012 and the 2017–2018 academic years, the cost of attendance has increased by nearly $14,000.

According to Glaser, part of the reason for this year’s increase is that the university’s budget is under heightened pressure. Glaser explained that the new Science and Engineering Complex and the Central Energy Plant (CEP) have proven expensive to build and maintain. He added that Tufts’ recent acquisition of the SMFA also resulted in additional costs to the university. 

According to Glaser, the university is also renovating housing and is making efforts to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in its renovations. According to Collins, new buildings and multi-year renovation processes caused a 17 percent rise in facility expenses since last year.

Glaser added that tuition dollars help fulfill the demands of new union contracts for lecturers. Collins explained that tuition dollars contribute to a 2.5 percent increase in salaries and benefits for faculty, which are necessary for the university to maintain a high-quality workforce in a competitive market.

(Astrid Weng / The Tufts Daily)

“We recognize that additional tuition places a burden on students and their families and attempt to keep the increase as small as possible while still meeting our growing commitments,” Glaser said. “It’s a difficult balance to achieve.”

According to Glaser, the Tufts administration has controlled costs this year by cutting programs, consolidating administrative departments and shrinking class sizes. Glaser also said Tufts is investing in projects that will save the university money in the future. For example, the CEP will supply the university with energy-efficient power and will make up its initial investment by 2027, according to Glaser.

Collins said that the university is committed to ensuring cost-effectiveness and limiting future tuition increases. He cited the efforts to standardize purchasing across the university, negotiate savings contracts and request prices from the vendors that sell goods and services to Tufts.

Collins explained that the university uses reverse auctions to allow suppliers to compete for the university’s business in the format of an auction. He added that the most recent reverse auction will result in savings of 20 percent on computers.

TSA has responded to the tuition hike by reasserting its #HaltTheHike campaign, which released its list of demands — including a temporary halt to the increasing cost of tuition and more community input on how funds are allocated — last November.

Students in TSA are frustrated not only by the cost of an education at Tufts, which already ranks as one of the most expensive schools in the United States, but also by the email’s content and delivery, including the fact that it did not break down the specific expenses that justify the increase. They were also disappointed by the timing of the email.

“This email was sent out on a Friday afternoon, and it was during a time when students are busy with midterms and preparing to leave for spring break, meaning that the students have limited ability to react or respond,” TSA wrote in their press release.

According to the press release, TSA is fighting for a “tuition freeze,” which would guarantee that students in each class year pay the same tuition each year they attend Tufts until they graduate. TSA explained that under this plan, tuition hikes would only affect each incoming class.

“We demand to know where our tuition dollars go and why Tufts is not prioritizing finding a way to freeze or lower tuition,” TSA member Michelle Delk wrote in the press release.

Chief among TSA’s concerns was the potential threat the tuition hike poses to socioeconomic diversity at Tufts

“We demand to know … why Tufts is not prioritizing finding a way to freeze or lower tuition,” Delk, a first-year, wrote.

Glaser said the administration will work to ensure that Tufts remains accessible to students from a wide variety of socioeconomic backgrounds.

“The university has a social mission to serve a broad swath of society,” he said. “We also believe that a diverse community is important to the education we provide to all of our students.”

According to Glaser, a large portion of tuition dollars are used for financial aid, and Tufts raises money through philanthropy to make up the rest. Glaser said financial aid is a priority for the administration and its alumni and that additional dollars are put into endowments to ensure that Tufts offers financial aid in the future.

Still, some students argue that Tufts’ rhetorical commitment to diversity does not hold up in practice.

“Tufts continues to ignore the needs and concerns of its low-income and high need students, while touting its principles of inclusion and social justice,” TSA member Parker Breza, a sophomore, wrote in the press release. “The administration needs to live up to its alleged values and make this university truly acceptable to people regardless of socioeconomic status.”

CORRECTION:

An earlier version of this article listed the Foster Hospital for Small Animals as a project that Dean of Arts and Sciences James Glaser said has “proven expensive to build and maintain.” The Foster Hospital is not actually related to tuition increases for undergraduates, and Glaser did not include the Foster Hospital in his description of budgetary pressures. The Daily regrets this error.


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