Administration brings forward proposal to raise tuition
By Hayley Burcher and Katherine Na
Ready your wallets, Dons — your tuition may be going up again.
Administrative officials brought a proposal for a 4.9% tuition increase for the 2020-21 academic year to the recently-established University Budget Advisory Council (UBAC), USF’s financial advisory body, on Oct. 17.
If the proposal were to go into effect, it would mark yet another consecutive year of tuition rates rising — the University has been consistently raising tuition for over a decade. In recent years, tuition rose by 3.9% in 2017, 3.9% in 2018, and 4.4% in spring 2019. However, unlike previous years’ announcements of tuition raises, the USF Board of Trustees has not yet voted on this proposal — meaning that no increase has been made official yet.
Jeff Hamrick, vice provost for institutional budget, planning, and analytics and co-chair of UBAC, said in an email statement that the potential tuition increase would be used to create “even stronger” financial aid packages for future incoming Hilltop undergraduates, increase staff and faculty compensation, and go toward contractual increases and “selected discretionary increases related to [USF President Paul J. Fitzgerald]’s strategic priorities,” which includes the new engineering program and building Lone Mountain’s new residence halls.
According to Tiana Valerio, ASUSF vice president of finance and the UBAC undergraduate student representative, the proposal of a 4.9% increase may also separately apply to the University’s room and board fee, meaning that students could be facing a 4.9% increase in both tuition and room and board. At the time of print, UBAC is still working to confirm this information with University administration.
On Monday, Oct. 28, a member of UBAC, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Foghorn that the non-administrative members of the council had submitted a memo earlier that day to the Provost’s Council, which is the administrative body responsible for financial planning and is led by Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Donald E. Heller. The memo provided the Provost’s Council with a list of questions about the potential tuition increase and stipulated that UBAC wouldn’t recommend the tuition increase until they received answers to these questions, which included whether the tuition increase could be made lower than 4.9%, and what the allocation of these funds would be.
Members of the Provost’s Council, including Heller, Hamrick, and Vice Provost for Strategic Enrollment Management Michael Beseda, first approached UBAC with the proposal to raise tuition on Oct. 17. But non-administrative UBAC members expressed that they had waited to bring the issue to the attention of the larger student body because they wanted to ensure that their information was accurate and reliable. Had the information been shared prior, Valerio said, “I didn’t see it being conducive of anything other than people getting mad.”
After the 4.4% tuition increase during the 2018-19 academic year, then-juniors Corey Kowalczyke and Cassie Murphy formed Dons for Fair Tuition, a student group which advocates for more transparency from the administration surrounding financial decisions as well as more resources for low-income continuing students at the University.
Kowalczyke noted that, when tuition increases, the financial aid packages of continuing students do not change — fall 2020’s incoming class may see this proposed tuition increase reflected in their financial aid packages, but continuing students will not. “As a graduating senior, I know it doesn’t affect me. But I am kind of worried about those who are juniors or sophomores, who now have to reap the consequences of that because there are no aid increases for continuing students. That’s something that Cassie and I have been talking about: maybe strategizing to do some sort of advocacy around USF to realize the impact [the tuition increase] has on continuing students.”
Hamrick’s statement to the Foghorn indicated that the increased financial aid would apply to incoming classes, but made no mention of matriculated students.
Kowalczyke also believes that the University should be focusing more on helping the students who are already on campus and should take the specific needs of USF’s student population into account when making decisions about pricing. “Your students face a very, very competitive housing market. Your students face a really high cost of living,” he said. “And now you’re going to price your institution to the same that you would price an institution out in a rural or suburban area? It’s different.”
“Your students face a very, very competitive housing market. Your students face a really high cost of living.”Corey Kowalczyke
The USF Board of Trustees will be voting on the tuition increase at their quarterly meeting on Dec. 6, after which their decision will be final.
There will be a public town hall on Wednesday, Nov. 6 from 5-7 p.m. in the McLaren Complex, where members of the USF community are invited to voice their concerns. Hamrick, Beseda, Heller, and President Fitzgerald, as well as members of ASUSF Senate and UBAC, are expected to be in attendance.
Kalan K. Birnie contributed to the reporting of this story.