When asked the reasons behind next year's increase, Vice President and Treasurer Alan Norton stressed the need to add faculty positions, and to increase salaries for professors and the finances related to sabbaticals.
First, additional positions are being created in order to increase the number of classes under 20 students and to keep the student-professor ratio low.
Second, one of the college's strategic goals has been an increase in faculty salaries. There is a fair amount of competition for professors who want to come to a place like St. Olaf, Norton said. You have to raise salaries for the whole group, not just a handful of new people.
Finally, the cost of providing faculty sabbaticals is rising, and, as Norton explained, colleges go through expensive and inexpensive cycles of faculty sabbaticals. There is no way of keeping that steady, he said. Were just at the expensive end of that cycle.
According to Norton, who has spent the last 11 years as the Treasurer of St. Olaf, tuition at colleges across the nation has increased every year. Even during his undergraduate years, his time as a college professor and time as treasurer for another institution, costs for a liberal arts education have gone up. Every year, for my entire life, the costs have gone up, Norton said, and this year is no different.
Overall, Norton stressed the Board of Regents desire to keep increasing the quality education of St. Olaf. We've been an excellent residential liberal arts college, he said. We want to continue being excellent.
Unlike other industries, education does not get better by becoming more efficient; lower student-faculty ratios are simply the best way to teach and learn for many classes. It almost all comes with a higher cost, Norton said.
The best way to keep quality high at a residential liberal arts college is to bring in more faculty who are highly qualified. The price of a good education does not lend itself to automation. If you honestly thought that a faculty person could better teach 300 people than 30, we could turn this problem on its head, Norton said. It is the reality of creating something that is highly labor-dependent.