Despite the college’s attempts to curb the impact of an eight percent tuition increase with financial aid, students are frustrated by the hike and the campus’ budget shortfall.
“Mills’ tuition has been a constant struggle for me,” said senior Michele Roberts.
“I have found this year it has been impossible for me to pay tuition and I think the increase is to blame. Maybe I was naive, but I didn’t realize tuition increased each year, I come from a family where no one goes to college, to me it was not a known fact.”
To help students front the higher bill, financial aid has also increased, said Roger Ono, assistant vice president for financial affairs and human resources. Ono said that part of financial aid comes directly from the college, from tuition and also from the endowment.
“We give back about 35 cents per dollar just from Mills,” said Ono. Additional financial aid funds were given to the college from the state and federal government, as well as from the endowment and donations.
The total aid this year was roughly $8 million, according to interim provost John Brabson.
“We believed that because of the capacity to have good financial aid awards for students that we could raise tuition to help balance the budget but still stay reasonable,” said Sally Randel, vice president of institutional advancement.
Some students struggling with the hike wonder where the money is going, said senior Gina Kim.
“I don’t like the increase in tuition. Although I know the tuition increase
has to do with the general economic state, I’m in a position where, as a student, I don’t have a lot of income,” she said. “The increase means I have to take more money loans, and that makes me ask myself if we are receiving more as students from more tuition or if I’m just paying more tuition.”
According to an external audit, this fall the college received just over $18.5 million from tuition alone.
The college’s operating budget is derived primarily from tuition and fees (35 percent in 2000-2001), and income from the endowment (20 percent in 2000-2001), according to the office of institutional research.
Regardless of the increase in tuition, and the spread of the loss in endowment funds, the college has found itself $2 million short. “Not only are we paying more in tuition, but we’re losing crucial people and positions,” said Kim. “I don’t understand because I would think our paying more in tuition would help keep our faculty. It’s just not right that we’re paying more and still losing.”
The endowment funds are invested in the stock market, which has led to the loss of endowment income, said President Janet Holmgren. The loss of endowment income in the operating budget is one part of why the budget cuts must be made.
“The rise in tuition cannot cover the loss of endowment,” said Holmgren. “We anticipate that the payout [revenue from the endowment] will come down from about a high of $9 million to about $8 million.”
Randel said that although Mills’ tuition increased substantially this year, over a ten -year period, tuition increased at a rate much lower than comparable colleges, because of a tuition freeze in 1994-1995 which left it the same for three years. In addition, the fee increased at a rate below average until last year.
“The poor performance of the economy has had a substantial and negative impact on tax revenue and endowments, and consequently college tuitions,” said David Ward, president of the American Council on Education, which represents 1,800 colleges and universities.
“I understand the economy is down, and Mills has to make up for it,” said junior Shelley Falkenberg. “But if Mills is making decisions like cutting the Spanish department and putting more money into computer science, then I don’t agree.”