Tuition, room and board increase for next academic year

Photo courtesy of Butler University.

JESSICA LEE | NEWS REPORTER | jelee2@butler.edu

The cost of attending Butler University will increase for the 2017-18 academic year — tuition by 4 percent, room and board by 3 percent.

Next school year, tuition will cost $38,900, and room and board will cost $13,030. The total cost, which also includes books, fees, average transportation and miscellaneous expenses, will be $56,740.

Compared to the 2016-17 academic year, this amount is a $2,160 increase.

Bruce Arick, vice president for finance and administration, said tuition cost is driven by the national market of higher education.

“If students think that the reason why tuition went up was because of Butler 2020, that’s not the case,” Arick said.

Butler looks at ten to 20 competitors, mostly universities in the Midwest, and sets the cost according to how Butler’s tuition rate compares to their speculated tuition rate.

“Right now, 4 percent, we believe, is a good spot for us to be in vis-à-vis the schools we compete with,” Arick said.

The tuition has increased four times in the past seven years.

In 2012, tuition increased by 3.75 percent, and increased again by the same amount the next year and in 2015.

Sophomore Albert Badalov, who is a biomedical engineer and computer science double major, will pay for his student loans himself when employed after graduation.

Badalov said he assumed the tuition increase was due to Butler 2020 because, besides the Lacy School of Business, it was never made clear how the vision is funded.

“That’s a lot of money,” Badalov said about campus’s construction plans. “Most of us probably think it’s getting cut out of our tuition.”

First year Molly Edwards, who is a secondary education major, will also pay for her student loans herself.

Edwards said she initially thought the cost increased because of Butler 2020, which she found especially frustrating because she will graduate before the new changes.

After being informed why the tuition increase occurred, Edwards wanted to know what the extra 4 percent is going toward.

“They are receiving an extra four percent from each kid, each year, and the freshman class is increasing, so that’s a whole bunch of other money that’s sitting in the university’s lap,” Edwards said. “If it’s not going toward 2020, what is it going toward?”

Arick said Butler’s revenue, like many other universities, largely depends on tuition.

“Once we set that rate, then that becomes a significant governor on how much our costs are,” Arick said.

Other forms for revenue include room, board and endowment.

Endowment can be increased by fundraising, gifts from donors, investing assets and getting the return.

Keith Burks, the chairman of the board of trustees, said the best way to increase the endowment is to reach out to Butler alumni.

“When you bring older alums up to date on what’s occurring at Butler, and, especially if you get a recent graduate or current student to talk to them about the Butler experience, it really resonates,” Burks said.

The more reputable a university is, the more attention donors give, and the endowment increases, causing less dependency on tuition.

However, the more reputable a university is, the more the tuition increases.

Arick used Harvard University as an example. Because of Harvard’s reputation as a top Ivy League school, prospect students are more than willing to pay its high tuition.

Butler 2020 — with its plans for better dormitories, more science laboratories, better academic buildings — will improve the university’s national reputation.

Badalov said he liked the engineering program here, choosing it over another school that offered him a full ride.

Similarly, Edwards said she chose Butler because of its nationally recognized education program.

“You’re always on a constant plan of improving in some way that helps influence your future positively and that could be through the ability to continue to raise tuition, attract students, attract donors interests in giving money to the university, attract various involvement from folks,” Arick said.

Butler students, however, do not want the tuition to increase; they do not want the university to continue to raise tuition.

“It just seems like the school is thinking, ‘well we’re going to raise this price, but we don’t care how that’s going to affect you, we just now expect you to pay more money,’” Edwards said.

She said her financial aid situation has not changed.

“My one wish is that they would reevaluate our financial aid,” Edwards said.

Burks said parents and students are more aware of the “sticker price” than they were a few years ago, but, oftentimes, that’s not what each student ultimately pays.

“There’s academic aid and need-based aid,” Burks said. “And one of the things we’ve done at Butler — especially for the past three, five years — is substantially increase that aid. And, from a budget standpoint, that’s what we call unfunded aid.”

Unfunded aid, Burks said, helps build the incoming class. He compared it to building an orchestra or football team.

“It’s not just recruiting a group of 1,100 students,” Burks said. “It’s specifically filling needs and that’s where our unfunded aid really comes into play.”

Unfunded aid is money given to students not from endowed resources. It encompasses 95 percent of Butler financial aid dollars.

Arick said the tuition rate is not turning away applicants. With strong application growth and tuition rates in the market, the university is “very comfortable” with their tuition.

Nevertheless, the increase in financial aid does not help current students.

Edwards said she often asks herself why she doesn’t go to a cheaper school. She said she just happened to “fall in love” with the most expensive school on her list.

“The cost is always sitting in the back of my mind, but, in the end, I know here is where I want to be,” Edwards said.

Badalov said Butler was the most expensive school to which he applied.

“I guess you could say it’s a risk you take,” Badalov said. “You don’t know if you’re getting all that money back over a certain amount of time that you need to pay it back. And you only have six months to find a job, and then you have to start paying. It’s really more, to me, are you willing to take the risk?”

Burks said Butler does not only give students a degree; it “molds a person into somebody that really ought to have a meaningful and fulfilling life.”

“After you graduate, you love to have the stature of your university continue to increase because it just adds to the value of your degree,” Burks said.

This tuition increase will result in $10.4 million more for Butler’s budget. The current financial aid budget is more than $70 million.

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