Economy Spikes 2010-11 Tuition Rates: Administration balances setbacks to yield a low 2.9% increase

Undergraduates are soon to face a tuition increase for the 2010-11 academic year, which the university has deemed necessary.
Last December, the university presented their pricing strategy to the Board of Trustees for the upcoming fiscal year. The Board approved the 2 percent increase in residence hall rates, 2.6 percent increase in meal plan rates, and a tuition increase of 2.9 percent.
According to the Office of the Provost, USF’s tuition increase is among the lowest percentages of major universities. “We’ve been very careful in trying to look at operational efficiencies by reorganizing and trying to find ways to lower our operational costs,” said Salvador Aceves, vice provost for Planning, Budget and Review.

An increase in the number of students enrolled, amplified by the nation’s economic downturn, has prompted university officials to implement several structural adjustments that enhance faculty and staff productivity and continue the high-quality education for students.

“General concerns about access and affordability which fit into the larger context of an increase are what we are trying to balance,” said Aceves. “We as an institution and buyer of services have to factor in certain increases year after year.”

Aceves said there are three major factors that influenced a tuition increase for fall 2011.

The first includes the rising costs of health care benefits. Aceves said a task force was appointed to assemble a health care package that is attractive, but at a lower cost. The university seeks to become a smarter consumer in spite of rapidly increasing costs.

The second factor is the school’s financial aid offerings. The fall semester will experience a significant growth in qualifying university scholars, who are students receiving scholarships for their academic aptitude in high school. USF must set aside more scholarship money for the incoming class.

However, the university will face a financial drop in the endowment, and it will greatly impact the money geared toward student scholarships. The endowment is substantially lower than schools such as Santa Clara and Pepperdine.
Despite ongoing efforts to work with the city and other private organizations who may be interested in donating money, USF continues to award less aid from endowment earnings.

Aceves said the third factor has been the postponed maintenance in university facilities. The maintenance of sites that have undergone major upgrades, like the University Center, will be funded through the school’s tuition increase.

The Office of the Provost also had to deal with the rising costs of services that the university purchases. Services include the use of facilities on campus and several computer databases used by the library.

However, Aceves said one other leading reason for the tuition increase is the need to maintain competitive employee salaries. By doing so, the university may have an edge in attracting and maintaining their employee base.

Like other universities, USF has had to deal with financing competing interests, including collective bargaining agreements with several employee groups at the university.

One student praised the university’s insistence to make faculty salaries competitive, and said “the student essentially becomes a better product due to the competitive nature of the faculty salary.” Having family members graduate from USF in the past, they have seen tuition prices rise and found a tuition increase to be a bit excessive.

Nursing major Jessica Holtkamp said an increase in loans and scholarship funds will help students deal with the rise in cost, but doesn’t see the decision as a positive. “Raising the tuition will make it just that much harder for students to afford to go to this school.”

Since USF is 95 percent plus dependent on tuition, it places a heavy burden on students to cover the cost. As students submit their FAFSA for next year, officials must adjust their aid distribution based on need.

The decision to increase the tuition of undergraduate programs is evaluated at an institutional level. Aceves said when it comes to the graduate level, the university relies very strongly on the recommendations of each school, as many of these programs often operate in their own sub-market.

Aceves said, “At the end of the day, we want to make sure we are assigning those costs specifically to that segment of students who are the direct beneficiaries.”

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