Tuition increase follows pre-pandemic trends

After a soft tuition rise this academic year, USF plans to hike up tuition to its normal rate of nearly 4% for next fall. GRAPHIC BY SAMANTHA BERLANGA/SAN FRANCISCO FOGHORN

In an email to the USF community sent out Dec. 10, University President Paul Fitzgerald announced an undergraduate tuition increase of 3.5% above last year’s rate. 

Undergraduate tuition will increase from $69,612 to $72,082 in the 2022-2023 academic year. The rate of increase for tuition itself is 3.9%, while student housing rates and meal plans will increase 2.5%. A double room with a standard meal plan in Lone Mountain East will rise from $16,140 to $17,050. 

Due to primarily online classes and limited on-campus housing, last year’s increase of 1.9% was the lowest in a decade. However, since USF has returned to full in-person instruction and students have moved back to the Hilltop, this year’s rate is comparable to the increases in the 2019-2020 and 2021-2022 years, which were both closer to 4%.

When asked why this increase in tuition was necessary, USF Provost and President of Academic Affairs Chinyere Oparah, wrote that it will support standard university operating expenses such as faculty and staff compensation, new investments in technology, and library acquisitions; as well as financing mental health, wellness, and academic support for students.

In addition to these expenses, the rise in tuition will be allocated to two specific initiatives laid out by Oparah. The first is a new diversity faculty hiring initiative and the second is an expansion of the Gerardo Marin Fellowship Program, which recruits BIPOC doctoral and postdoctoral students to USF. “The goal of these initiatives is to address student demand for a faculty that better reflect their identities and experiences and to bring new expertise and perspectives to our campus,” Oparah said.

Another direct cause for the increase is the rising national and Bay Area levels of inflation. “Even as we pledge to operate as efficiently as possible, the cost of fulfilling our mission, providing an excellent educational experience, compensating our employees fairly, and maintaining historic buildings and physical setting increases each year as the costs of goods and services go up,” Oparah said.

In his Dec. 10 email, Fitzgerald also outlined the rate of inflation nationwide, which was 6.2% at the time. This rate increased to 7% later in December. He urged the USF community to “please note that we are keeping increases well below the local rate of inflation.”

“I’m not happy with the increase in tuition but I don’t have control over it,” said Jack Curtner, a sophomore environmental studies major. “If the tuition is increasing because of inflation, I hope that my scholarship money increases too.” 

Oparah addressed the issue of financial aid in her email to the Foghorn. “With the support of the Board of Trustees, USF has budgeted $131 million of its own funds, and funds from its generous benefactors, for financial aid for students in 2022-2023,” she said. “In addition, the Board of Trustees and other university donors have raised at least $1.5 million for the COVID-19 Response Fund, a fund that is used to support the immediate needs of students impacted by the circumstances of the past two years.” 

“After the past two years of loss, I can understand the need for an increase to a certain extent,” said Amani Hayat, a sophomore economics major. “The part I don’t understand is that the University is getting such large donations, and has savings. I don’t get the need for an increase as often as there is.” 

One such donation by the Sobrato family, long-time supporters of the University, was announced Jan. 27 by USF News. The donation of $17 million is said to be intended to “ease the burden of tuition and remove barriers to access higher education for future USF students for years to come.”

Curtner shared a similar sentiment to Hayat. “The tuition increase will affect some students a lot more than others. The school should be aware and keep track of these implications,” he said.

Given student concerns about this issue, Oparah listed resources to help students through financial trouble. “ [Financial aid] counselors can provide one-on-one advising via walk-in hours on Lone Mountain or Zoom/phone appointments. They are also available by phone during office hours and can provide assistance applying and renewing applications for financial aid or addressing the needs a student may have related to a change in financial circumstances or a family emergency.”

She added, “The Office of Financial Aid also offers many webinars for new and continuing students that cover the financial aid appeal process, outside scholarships, and more. February is also Financial Aid Awareness month.” 

While this significant rise in undergraduate expenses will take a toll on students, the University states that it will provide ongoing support to help make sure no student is left behind.

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