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ISSUE 121 VOL 14 PUBLISHED 3/14/2008

Tuition increase reflects national trend

By Peter Meng
Contributing Writer

Friday, March 14, 2008

Many students are frustrated since learning about the increased tuition costs for the 2008-09 school year. Although continuing students will only pay a $40,600 comprehensive fee, new students will pay a hefty $42,200.

For the current fiscal year ending in May, the college has a $100 million budget, according to President David Anderson '74. Income from tuition only fulfills 70 percent of the budget. The other 30 percent comes from alternative sources including the endowment and gifts.

Despite having a $326 million endowment, only a small portion can be used in the college's budget, according to Anderson. The rest of the money must be reinvested.

Asking donors for gifts had been a viable option in previous years, but many have already been more than generous. "All our best friends just gave us $33 million dollars," Anderson said, in reference to money raised for the new Regents Hall of Natural Sciences.

Next year's budget is 10 percent larger than the current year. Expenditures have ballooned to $110 million, thus putting a strain on resources to fill the 30 percent budget gap.

Some of the largest increases in the budget can be attributed to faculty wages and benefits. "The College has been trying to increase wages faster than inflation," college treasurer Alan Norton said. Due to a competitive market for high quality faculty, good salaries must be given to retain and attract as many members as possible. "Our faculty have not been historically paid at levels of other institutions," Anderson stated.

Costs for maintaining new and current buildings on campus are also escalating. Rising oil costs continue to push up prices associated with providing electricity and heating buildings. Additional staff must be hired to clean and maintain new buildings and buildings are consistently renovated to extend their lifespan. "You don't want to graduate from a college that is floundering," Norton said.

Administrators constantly look for new ways to cut costs and save money without hurting the quality of an education at St. Olaf. Increasing class sizes would be an efficient teaching option, but would degrade the learning experience found here. "We're going to keep our hands off anything that might hurt a program," Norton stated.

St. Olaf is currently a member of a joint purchasing consortium made up of several other small liberal arts colleges. Together, member colleges collectively negotiate and purchase goods and services at discounted rates. Cleaning supplies and shredding services are just some of the discounted items.

St. Olaf shares several staff members, including bookstore management, with Carleton. Significant savings occur when a specialist is only hired to work on campus half-time.

Rather than purchasing telephone services from an outside carrier, St. Olaf has developed a private telephone company. As a result, long distance calling costs are minimal. Additionally, the Northfield Hospital and other local businesses currently purchase phone service from St. Olaf, allowing a small profit to be made.

The wind turbine also reduces spending. As energy costs continue to soar, the wind turbine continues to pay back more each year. Currently, the turbine saves the college $250,000 each year.

For the first time in its history, St. Olaf has adopted a differential tuition. Returning students will receive a $1,600 continuing education credit to reduce the pressure the tuition hikes may induce. Although it fails to completely offset the increase, the reasoning behind the credit is simple: students who are able to use newer buildings on campus for longer periods of time will pay a higher fee.

Students at St. Olaf are not alone when facing increased tuition costs. Most colleges lacking billions of dollars in endowments have also been forced to increase tuition.

Despite the increases, "St. Olaf provides great value for what it charges," Anderson said.

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