Tuition rates will increase 5.9 percent for undergraduate students and between 3.5 and 7 percent for graduate students next year, and for the first time an undergraduate business or quantitative methods-computer science class will cost an additional 5 percent ($126).
The fees were approved Feb. 20 by the St. Thomas board of trustees as part of the university’s 2003-2004 budget, which also calls for an increase in the faculty-staff salary pool of 3.2 percent.
Undergraduate tuition of $20,240, when combined with fees of $368 and increases of 4.5 percent in room and 3 percent in board, will result in a comprehensive fee of $27,206. That is an increase of 5.5 percent over the 2002-2003 comprehensive fee of $25,797. (See tables for details.)
More than 80 percent of undergraduate students – and virtually every freshman – receive financial aid through scholarships, grants, loans and campus employment.
St. Thomas will charge an additional 5 percent for undergraduate business and quantitative methods courses because of the markedly higher costs in recruiting and retaining faculty in those areas, said Terrence O’Connor, vice president for finance and administration. The decision means a typical semester course in those areas will cost an additional $126.
Tuition rates for next year have not been set at all of Minnesota’s private colleges, but St. Thomas expects to remain moderately priced. This year, St. Thomas ranks fifth in comprehensive fee, sixth in tuition and second in room and board among the 17 institutions that are members of the Minnesota Private College Council. (See tables for details.)
The funds generated from the tuition increases will pay for expenses related to faculty and staff compensation and higher costs of fringe benefits such as health care. Campuswide technology improvements will include the ongoing conversion to the Banner administrative system, redesigned Web sites and services through the new Liquid Matrix program, and upgrades in the course management system and the network infrastructure.
The faculty-staff salary pool will increase by 3.2 percent. This amount will include a 2 percent cost-of-living increase for faculty with satisfactory performance reviews and staff members who make successful progress in meeting individual objective and development plan goals. The other 1.2 percent will be used to pay for increases related to promotions and equity adjustments in jobs where surveys show faculty or staff salaries lag behind the market.
O’Connor said St. Thomas faced special challenges in putting together next year’s budget because of the economic slowdown and the difficulty in projecting how quickly enrollment will bounce back in several academic programs.
Graduate business programs this year will not meet revenue projections because fewer students enrolled after corporations were affected by the economy. Graduate software enrollment dropped because international students continued to have visa difficulties after the Sept. 11 tragedy. Endowment earnings also have decreased because of the bear stock market.
St. Thomas consequently reduced noncompensation expense budgets for the remainder of this fiscal year and next year. The result will be that these budgets in fiscal 2004 generally will be at a level comparable to where they will end up in fiscal 2003, O’Connor said.
As of Sept. 1, the university no longer will accept credit card payments for tuition, room and board, saving $500,000 in fees charged by credit card companies. O’Connor said it is difficult to eliminate this option, which is popular because of its convenience and the ability to earn frequent-flyer miles, but the alternative is to raise tuition by another 0.5 percent. St. Thomas will introduce an electronic check payment option in which an individual’s checking account can be charged directly for expenses such as tuition.
Even with rising tuition, St. Thomas subsidizes the education of all undergraduate students, including those who do not receive financial aid. Tuition covers about 80 percent of instruction-related expenses. The remaining 20 percent comes from gifts, endowment and investment earnings, and contributed services of clergy and religious personnel.
The School of Law will continue to be funded by four primary sources – tuition, annual contributions, income from law school endowment funds and support from the university’s quasi-endowment fund. Dependence on the quasi-endowment fund will diminish as enrollment grows to 450 students and as endowment pledges are paid.