For most Rensselaer students, it is often painful to think about tuition, but at last week’s Student Senate meeting the Finance, Facilities, and Advancement Committee, co-chaired by Daniel Horvath ’08, presented a comparison study of Rensselaer’s peers relating tuition prices and increases.
Horvath, along with Nick Wood ‘07, are the student representatives to the Board of Trustees Finance Commitee and work closely with Virginia C. Gregg. She heads the finance division at RPI, which assesses the university’s fiscal situation and proposes changes to the Board of Trustees and the president of the Institute.
At all universities, tuition is among the main sources of operating income. While our operating costs are high, RPI still remains among some of the “best value” universities in the nation according to U.S. News and World Report.
It is the general trend, however, that while tuition prices increase, financial aid awarded by the government and other institutions lags behind. This lack of assistance lays a burden upon the students, forcing them to take out loans or to work off-campus jobs to pay for the tuition increases.
“RPI offers enough financial aid that the high cost of attending does not affect me greatly,” said Eli Carreiro ’07, reflecting on the many programs offered by Rensselaer to aid students in paying their tuition.
The tuition increase for the 2006 school year was 5.2 percent. This does not include increases in room or board costs, as tuition is only the academic cost of attendance. In addition, there are other costs such as books or the Union activity fee.
Horvath showed the Standard market basket competitors of RPI include, but are not limited to: Carnegie Mellon University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Southern California, Johns Hopkins University, Cornell University, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, University of Rochester, University of Pennsylvania, Case Western University, California Institute of Technology, and Clarkson University.
The comparative study ranked RPI 19th out of 34 for having the highest tuition in our peer group, with a tuition of $32,600. Carnegie Mellon came in first with the highest tuition at about $34,180, followed by University of Pennsylvania and Tufts University.
Rensselaer’s tuition increase of 5.2 percent was not out of the ordinary, either. This year, Rice University had a 13.7 percent tuition increase and Case Western University had a 9.5 percent tuition increase. With the attendance cost comparison, rankings were also featured showing no direct correlation between rank and tuition, but showing more of a correlation with location.
Tuition increases at RPI are imperative due to inflation, higher costs of energy, and the increasing standard of living in general. “This allows Rensselaer to move forward and provide a world-class technological environment and to compete,” said President Shirley Ann Jackson on the issue of rising tuition.
The Rensselaer Board of Trustees set the cost of attendance for undergraduate and graduate students at $32,600 for the 2006-2007 academic year. In the comparative study, “The average tuition is $29,104, and the average increase is 5.6 percent, and RPI is not far from the current average with a lower increase,” said Horvath.
Rensselaer has seen many new improvements with the help of tuition increases in the past few years. In this year alone, applications were up 23 percent for RPI’s class of 2010 giving a slightly larger class of about 1,300 students.
Since 2005, more than 65 new faculty members have been, or will be hired. This includes the creation of new positions, constellations, and the hiring of faculty to fill vacancies and replace professors who are retiring. This far-reaching renewal of the faculty and the arrival of a large contingent of new, research-active professors will greatly enhance scholarship and teaching at RPI.
Rensselaer, in the past few years, has spent a record amount to launch several capital projects, many of which will bring back more money to the Institute. While there have been many increases, students like Cody Powers ’07, Student Senate Community Relations Committee Chair, think that increases are inevitable. “Every school is increasing tuition, paying tuition has become a price insensitive process; until there is a push back and people stop enrolling, then there is no reason to stop small tuition increases that will help increase the quality of education at Rensselaer.”
This year, RPI ranked 42nd in the nation in the US News and World Report’s 2007 ranking, moving up from 43rd. From the same source, Rensselaer was ranked 24th in the nation for “Best Value” as well as being named a “New Ivy,” by Kaplan and Newsweek.