• Undergraduate Tuition Will Increase 4.5 Percent Next Year

    Campus Aerials
    (Photo by Mike Ekern '02)

    Tuition rates will increase 4.5 percent for undergraduate students and an average of 3.3 percent for graduate students beginning this summer, the St. Thomas Board of Trustees decided Thursday.

    The board approved the increases as part of the university’s 2013-2014 budget, which also calls for a 2.5 percent increase in overall funding for the faculty and staff salary pool.

    Day undergraduate tuition and fees of $35,308, when combined with 2 percent and 3 percent increases in room and board rates, respectively, will result in a comprehensive fee of $44,294. That will be a 4.1 percent increase over this year’s comprehensive fee of $42,565, but less than the 4.6 percent increase last year and the 4.9 percent increase two years ago. (See tuition, room and board tables for details.)

    As in the past, the undergraduate tuition rate of $1,079 per credit will cover all courses except business, statistics, computer and information sciences, and information and decision theory. Those courses will be $1,133 per credit, or 5 percent higher, because of the higher cost of faculty in those areas.

    Graduate programs were given flexibility to set tuition increases, depending on their markets. The School of Law has decided to freeze tuition for next year in light of increasing cost pressures in the legal services market. Tuition increases will range from a low of 3 percent in the School of Divinity to a high of 4.5 percent in the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Education, Leadership and Counseling. (See tuition table for details.)

    “We are keeping our tuition increases as low as possible in recognition of a very competitive market both at the undergraduate and graduate levels,” said Mark Vangsgard, vice president for business affairs and chief financial officer. “We also will increase the amount of undergraduate financial aid by 5.6 percent, knowing that many families still are feeling the impact of the recession.”

    Tuition rates for next year have not been set at all of Minnesota’s private colleges, but St. Thomas expects to remain moderately priced for its undergraduate programs. This year, St. Thomas ranks 7th in comprehensive fee, as well as in tuition and in room and board, among the 17 institutions that are members of the Minnesota Private College Council (see table for details). St. Thomas’ comprehensive fee this year ($42,565) is only $270 higher than the MPCC average ($42,295).

    Vangsgard said undergraduate tuition increases need to be viewed in two ways – “sticker,” or gross, price and net price after financial aid. Next year’s gross increase of 4.5 percent will be reduced to an average of 3.8 percent after financial aid. Over the last five years, the gross tuition increase has been 5.2 percent but drops to an average of 2.9 percent after financial aid.

    More than 80 percent of undergraduate students – and virtually every freshman – receive financial aid through scholarships, grants, loans and campus employment. St. Thomas subsidizes the education of all students, including those who do not receive financial aid, because tuition covers only 80 percent of instruction-related expenses. The remaining 20 percent comes from gifts, endowment and investment earnings, and contributed services of religious personnel.

    Net undergraduate tuition, after financial aid, will provide 52 percent ($122 million) of next year’s $232 million in net operating revenue, Vangsgard said. Graduate programs will provide 21 percent ($48 million), and the remaining 27 percent ($62 million) will come from sources such as room, board, bookstores, seminars, gifts, fees and endowment income.

    Here are other highlights of the 2013-14 budget:

    Salary Increases

    There will be a 2.5 percent increase in the faculty and staff salary pool – the same increase as this year and higher than the 2 percent increases the previous two years. Similar to a recent faculty salary equity increase program, a staff salary equity increase program will enter its second year, with another $400,000 set aside to better match pay with current market conditions.

    Compensation costs (salaries and fringe benefits) will amount to 74 percent of the operating expenses budget next year, with the balance for non-compensation costs such as utilities, travel and professional development, supplies, repairs, professional services and printing.

    Enrollment Projections

    Overall undergraduate enrollment is projected to grow slightly this fall, with credit hour increases from 188,700 to 189,300. Undergraduate credits have increased 4.2 percent over the last five years.

    St. Thomas plans to enroll a class of 1,450 freshmen, including 1,400 domestic students and 50 international students, as well as 285 transfer students. This will be the ninth consecutive year of freshmen classes averaging more than 1,300 students.

    Overall graduate enrollment also is projected to grow slightly, with credit hours increasing from 62,400 to 63,300. This would reverse an 11 percent decline, from 70,800 credits, over the last five years.

    Health Care Expenses

    Expenses associated with the health benefit plan for employees are expected to increase 8.5 percent this calendar year and 9.9 percent next year, due in large part to new federal health care requirements. St. Thomas sought to minimize the impact to employees by increasing its share of the costs for 2013 compared to 2012. For 2013, St. Thomas is expected to cover 71 percent of the health benefits cost compared to 59 percent for 2012.

    Building Projects and Equipment

    St. Thomas will spend $5.7 million in building projects and $1.3 million for capital equipment.

    The renovation of Murray-Herrick Campus Center will continue, with the Admissions office moving this summer to the second floor of Herrick Hall. Financial aid staff members moved to the first floor of Herrick last year.

    Other renovation projects include: replacement of fume hoods in Owens Science Hall laboratories; carpet replacement on several floors in Flynn, Dowling and Grace residence halls; replacement of some furniture in Morrison Residence Hall; new cooling towers in Murray-Herrick and O’Shaughnessy Educational Center; remodeled faculty offices on the third floor of OEC; and brick restoration on Brady Residence Hall.

    Most equipment purchases will be for the science and engineering programs. The Physical Plant also will purchase additional grounds and maintenance equipment.

    New Faculty and Staff Positions

    About 16.5 new positions will be funded – 12.5 staff and 4 faculty – while 4.5 staff and 4 faculty positions will be eliminated.

    Technology Improvements

    St. Thomas will implement a new advising and academic counseling software to its enterprise systems. The software is a Web-based academic advising, degree audit and transfer articulation application to help students and their advisers monitor and meet curriculum requirements toward graduation.

    The university also will continue work on the Digital Convergence Initiative by adding new enterprise and building-level switching and routing equipment. The project will upgrade network infrastructure in older buildings, increase capacity and speed on the wired and wireless networks and provide a single converged network for voice, video and data as well as access to greater online services for instruction and business functions. The advantages of this network approach are apparent in the Anderson Student Center and the Anderson Athletic and Recreation Center.

    In addition, St. Thomas will continue to raise its Internet connectivity to meet demand, especially for online learning in its increasingly varied forms. Improvements in business process analysis, business intelligence reporting and integrated collaboration tools also will be added and testing will continue on unified communications services.

    St. Thomas will add a new enterprise content management system beginning in FY14.  The Microsoft Sharepoint implementation will increase collaboration tools, add a secure intranet for the campus, improve access to storage and provide significant project management capabilities

    Libraries

    St. Thomas libraries will add about 12,000 titles in print and e-books and audiovisual formats over the next year. The libraries’ budget for electronic content continues to grow as a percentage of total budget; in the coming year, 75 percent of spending on content will be on digital material and 25 percent will be on print.

    Information Session

    An information session on next year’s budget will be at noon Thursday, Feb. 28, in Rooms 364 and 365 of the Anderson Student Center. Bring a brown-bag lunch; cookies and beverages will be provided. Vangsgard; Dr. Mark Dienhart, executive vice president and chief operating officer; and Dr. Sue Huber, executive vice president and chief academic officer, will speak at the session.

    References linked above (PDFs):

http://www.stthomas.edu/news/wp-content/themes/magpress